GR native launches private multi-carrier health exchange


Said to be the state’s first multi-carrier employee benefits exchange for small and mid-sized employers, iSelect Custom Benefits Store has been launched by Grand Rapids native Denise Christy.

Headquartered in Royal Oak, iSelect promises to help employers control benefit costs and choose among multiple carriers, while allowing their employees to select and customize their individual benefit packages.

Priority Health and Health Alliance Plan are iSelect’s carrier partners, but Christy said she eventually will add to iSelect choices a national insurance vendor for ancillary lines such as dental, vision, life, disability and others.

iSelect is an insured health benefits exchange, describing itself as a virtual storefront for group benefits that will enable employers to control benefit costs with a defined contribution funding strategy while allowing their employees to become active and informed benefits consumers. It will use an online technology platform from New York-based Liazon, a major private insurance exchange provider. iSelect has exclusive rights to Liazon’s Bright Choices service in Michigan.

iSelect’s customized benefit options are brought to the employer by the employer’s independent insurance agent. Agents interested in marketing and selling benefits using the iSelect Custom Benefits Store will be certified by iSelect after training begins this month.

Employees select the specific health care benefits they want — medical, dental and vision — but also disability and life insurance options.

“iSelect levels the benefits playing field for mid-sized employers,” said Christy, iSelect CEO. “iSelect gives employers access, through their independent insurance agents, to multiple carriers and a menu of benefit options not available previously in the small and mid-sized employer market.”

“Priority Health and HAP will offer custom product suites on iSelect,” she added, noting that both organizations have broad provider networks in Michigan and high member satisfaction rates.

Christy said iSelect meets an important need for Michigan employers preparing to comply with the Affordable Care Act, citing research that indicates 85 percent of Michigan employers intend to continue offering health coverage when the ACA is fully enacted in 2014. The ACA mandates that employers provide health benefits or opt out and pay a penalty.

Other private insurance exchanges typically are proprietary and only include one carrier for all customers. An example is GlidePath from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, a defined contribution plan.

iSelect carriers, according to Christy, have from five to 10 medical plan designs, while small and mid-sized plans are generally limited to two or three plan designs. Christy said iSelect also makes a company’s benefits administration easier, with employers making a single defined monthly payment, and the insurance carriers fully insure their benefit plans.

Mark Hall, HAP vice president of sales, said iSelect “is a win-win for Michigan consumers and companies. The state’s most trusted health insurers have joined a Michigan-based private exchange to provide cost savings and a greater choice of flexible health plan options than ever before for employees. HAP’s expertise in the retail market and established insurance agent relationships will help purchasers make the right choices in this growing market.”

“As health care changes significantly in the next year, Priority Health remains committed to finding new and improved ways to address issues of cost, access and quality,” said Scott Norman, vice president of sales for Priority Health. “We see our partnership with iSelect as one more way we are furthering this commitment and achieving our mission of providing all people access to excellent and affordable health care.”

Christy is a 1982 graduate of Aquinas College and serves as co-chair of the Aquinas Foundation Board. Aquinas recently conferred an Honorary Doctorate of Business degree on Christy.

She was regional president of Humana Inc., responsible for operations in Michigan and Indiana, from 2003 until she resigned at the close of 2012 to launch the iSelect exchange.

Health Alliance Plan is a Michigan-based, nonprofit health insurance plan providing coverage to more than 660,000 members and companies of all sizes for more than 50 years.

Priority Health, owned by Spectrum Health, offers a broad portfolio of products for employer groups and individuals, including Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries. As a nonprofit company, Priority Health serves more than 600,000 people.

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