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January 16, 2012

HR: A new way to buy health insurance: "exchanges"

On November 18 the US Department of Health and Human Services unveiled according to their press release an "unprecedented tool developed for small businesses to find and compare health insurance plans.â€

I was stunned. I had no idea after all these years flying under the radar, the unique abilities of health insurance agents and brokers were finally being recognized! I had to pinch myself and, in so doing, woke up to the reality I was in fact seeing what surely is the precursor to a federal health insurance "Exchange.†Check it out for yourself: www.healthcare.gov. In particular, CRW readers will want to click on and view the three minute video located on the Home Page called the "Small Business Health Plan Finder.â€

Let’s back up for a moment. A cornerstone of The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (PPACA) is the creation of new purchasing pools "Exchanges†where individuals and small businesses can buy health insurance, beginning in 2014, with the federal government providing income based premium subsidies. States have the option of setting up and administering their own Exchanges and must demonstrate a readiness to do so by January 1, 2013.

How might health insurance sold through a Wisconsin Exchange differ from the small business plans being marketed today? (See "A Pool is a Pool is a Pool†from the July 2011 issue of CRW.) Of the many good ideas being circulated, if I was appointed Insurance Czar, here are just a few features I’d require:

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