Highmark Inc. said it's partnering with a Seattle-based company to pilot a private health insurance exchange program for small businesses.
The Pittsburgh-based health insurance company will work with Array Health Solutions Inc., a technology company specializing in insurance exchange systems.
The plan is designed for employers to offer a monthly fixed-dollar amount for each employee's insurance needs. Employees can then visit an online system to select from seven Highmark health insurance plans and two dental and vision insurance plans, Highmark said. The plans included in the pilot program are some of the most-often used benefit plans, said Steven Nelson, senior vice president of health services strategy, product and marketing at Highmark.
Only 49 percent of small businesses in Pennsylvania offer health insurance, according to America's Health Insurance Plans, a Washington, D.C.-based national health insurance trade association.
"We believe that if (small businesses) can offer their employees a fixed-dollar amount toward the purchase of insurance, then we can help insure more individuals and the employer can manage long-term health care costs," Nelson said in a statement.
The private exchange Array designed includes a product marketplace with tools to compare and explore insurance plans. The system also has an administrative section for employers and insurance brokers to oversee health benefits, according to the company.
The exchange will be offered to small employer groups covering 10 to 99 people beginning Jan. 1. The processes of paperwork and fees will be the same as any other Highmark insurance plan, and should not create more work for employers, Nelson said.
Highmark has been working to create a retail market in the health insurance industry, which includes stores, mobile marketing using traveling vehicles, online tools and now this pilot program, Nelson said.
Highmark is the parent company of East Pennsboro Township, Cumberland County-based Highmark Blue Shield.