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The Exchanges: Day 1

Posted in Plan Administration, Welfare Plans

Today marks the first day for open enrollment into the new exchanges.  I had breakfast this morning with a group of other benefits professionals and we talked about this relatively significant event much the same way I imagine people talked about the US entering World War II.  For it or against it, everyone had some strong opinions, but we did share various news reports we had caught.

Reuters reports that according to early checks, the rollout of the most ambitious U.S. social program in five decades had a rocky start. A federally-run exchange for consumers in 36 states began posting error messages for at least 25 of them soon after the system opened for enrollment at 8 a.m. EDT, citing online traffic as a reason for the difficulties.  The Washington Post reports similar errors and long waits to talk to customer services representatives.  NBCnews.com has a story about a couple who quit their jobs to get access to the coverage.  Various publications provide information that premiums are more or less than expected, depending on who they interview.  All in all, I think everything that was expected is happening pretty much as expected for the first day of the rollout.

Possibly employers are getting questions too.  If you handed out the exchanges notices as required, you have provided your employees with the information necessary to go to the exchanges and price coverage.  I don’t recommend that employers should try to answer specific questions about the exchanges, but they should share information about their employer-sponsored plans if asked.  When the dust settles, I also recommend that employers check out the exchanges themselves to see what the rates and options are in their geographic areas just to get a feel for what employees are seeing.  Information like this can be very valuable when developing a business plan for dealing with the 2015 mandate.  But you might want to wait a few days.  I have tried several times and each time the site crashed.