Nearly 100% of employers are satisfied using a benefits marketplace (also known as a private exchange) to deliver an online shopping experience for choosing health and other benefits to employees, according to the 2017 Employer Experiences on Benefits Marketplaces Survey report by Willis Towers Watson. The majority of employers believe it has impacted their employees and company in a positive way by helping to control costs, simplify administration, and improve company culture:*

  • 97% of employers are satisfied with the benefits marketplace.
  • 86% think the benefits marketplace has helped them control benefits costs.
  • 89% say moving to the benefits marketplace has impacted their company culture positively.

Willis Towers Watson surveyed employers who use our benefits marketplaces to offer employees health benefits and more. This survey targeted employers with benefits effective dates between April 2016 and March 2017.

Read the full employer report: Willis Towers Watson Employer Satisfaction with Benefits Marketplaces 2017.

Read the employee report: Willis Towers Watson Health Care Consumerism in a Marketplace Environment 2017.

See the full infographic: Willis Towers Watson Infographic Everybody Wins

Click for the full WTW 2017 Employer Satisfaction Survey Infographic







*Data reflective of Willis Towers Watson Mid-Market and broker channel market


The League of California Cities® announced today that it is working with Willis Towers Watson to give cities more health care options to offer to their retirees through the League of California Cities’ Health Benefits MarketplaceSM (HBM). The HBM launched in August and is a consumer-driven platform that lets cities redesign their approach to medical insurance and gives retirees and active employees coverage choices that align with their individual needs.

League of California Cities partners with OneExchange

League of California Cities Health Benefits Marketplace (HBM) partners with OneExchange to provide Medicare and early retiree medical coverage options to California cities

“California city officials have expressed the need for solutions to the ongoing pressure they face in reducing Other Post-Employment Benefits (OPEB) liabilities and providing competitive health benefits to active employees and retirees,” said Chris McKenzie, executive director, League of California Cities. “The Health Benefits Marketplace provides cities with the flexibility to leverage technology to enable greater health care choice as well as help manage OPEB liabilities and rising health care costs by decoupling and unbundling active employee and retiree costs.”

Reducing OPEB liabilities and providing health benefits to active employees and retirees is a challenge for many cities. The HBM provides cities with an efficient tool to leverage technology to enable greater health care choice as well as help manage OPEB liabilities and rising health care costs by allowing cities to handle retiree health benefits separately from health benefits for active employees.

Medicare and early-retiree coverage on the HBM is provided by Willis Towers Watson on its OneExchange™ marketplace. OneExchange lets cities achieve an immediate reduction in retiree health benefit costs, including long-term liability and the administration of health plan management. Retirees enjoy the value and transparency of a robust marketplace, meaningful choice of individual plans, and the expert assistance of licensed benefit advisors to help them choose coverage that fits their needs.

Diversified Benefit Strategies serves as the League’s private exchange consultant.
“The League went through a rigorous selection process to choose its partners for the Health Benefits Marketplace,” said Barry Eyre, lead consultant, Diversified Benefit Strategies. “Willis Towers Watson and Connecture have proven to be excellent partners in the creation of a highly flexible platform designed to meet the needs of public agencies in California.”

To learn more about the League’s Health Benefits Marketplace visit and for the full announcement, see League of California Cities Announces New Partners in Offering Improved Health Benefits Options to Local Cities.


Towers Watson announced today that it has acquired Acclaris, a provider of software-as-a-service (SaaS)-based technology and services for consumer-driven health plan and reimbursement accounts, including health savings accounts (HSAs), health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs) and other consumer-directed accounts.

The acquisition enhances our position as a leading benefits administrator and private benefit exchange provider. By 2017, Towers Watson research shows that approximately 50% of employers could offer account-based health plans (ABHPs) as their only option – with about 20% already doing so in 2015.

Acclaris’s scalable platform offers integrated technology and services to support account-based benefits. As of March 2015, Acclaris supports 1.4 million accounts across all account-based benefit types and works with 6,000 employers, including more than 40 Fortune 500 companies.

Jim Foreman, managing director of Towers Watson’s Exchange Solutions unit had this to say:

Going forward, Towers Watson and Acclaris will enable clients of any size to offer health benefits in new and cost-effective ways. Acclaris stands out from the competition for its operational efficiency, and its scalable and configurable SaaS-based technology and service delivery.

We believe this combination will allow us to offer the end-to-end process for both traditional benefits administration and private benefit exchange solutions, and to deliver a seamless experience for our employer-clients, an exceptional experience for consumers and high-quality customer support for both.”

Read the full announcement of the Acclaris acquisition here.

OneExchange today marked an important milestone: 50 employer clients have used our private Medicare solution to transition multiple groups of customers.

Workforces can be complex, and changing benefits for multiple groups at once may not always be possible. Union contract negotiation timelines differ. Employers may want to test-drive a new approach like an exchange with a portion of their population first. And newly acquired companies may present an opportunity to streamline benefits administration after an initial group has already transitioned.

These are all reasons why employer clients have come back time and time again to OneExchange in addition to the reasons they chose Towers Watson’s Medicare solution in the first place.

Read first-hand what Phil Belcher, U.S. Health & Welfare Plans Manager for Eastman Chemical has to say about Eastman’s experience with OneExchange.

71% of companies that offer retiree health care report that they already offer retirees access to a private Medicare exchange or plan to by 2016 – just 10 years after our inaugural enrollment season as the U.S.’s first private Medicare exchange in 2006.

Read the full announcement here.


71% of companies that offer retiree health report that they already offer retirees access to a private Medicare exchange or plan to by 2016


The Bay Bridge at night, looking to its footings in Alameda County











Each year, Kathy Foster and team analyze the funds in their organization’s trust to figure out how long the money will last. More than 20,000 people rely on those funds when they retire – for income and health coverage – one of the biggest costs in retirement.


Foster is Assistant CEO of the Alameda County Employees’ Retirement Association (ACERA) – steward of the retirement benefits fund for the nation’s seventh largest county.

In February 2012, ACERA was one of California’s first counties to use a private Medicare exchange. A year later, ACERA is sharing how it made the decision, what the move entailed and taking a 20/20 look back to measure projections.

Read Building a Bridge to the Future: ACERA’S Retiree Medical Strategy.

Learn more about Towers Watson’s OneExchange solution for retiree healthcare.

Check out some hard-hitting questions on how private exchanges can measure up as a cost-management tool by Towers Watson’s Managing Director of Exchange Solutions, Bryce Williams.

Watch This

Skyrocketing health benefit costs have made cost management strategies a concern for every company officer. CFOs feel this acutely and are looking for solutions that transcend the traditional.

I spoke with three engineers of the next frontier of benefits delivery – chief actuary Dave Osterndorf, strategist Ben Pajak and active employee exchange expert Cathy Tripp – to get their best advice on how CFOs can leverage health insurance exchanges to tame health benefit costs now and down the road – when the stakes get even higher. 

Here are their best thoughts on what’s driving the savings on exchanges, how much employers can expect to save and the impact on HR and benefits.

  1. What can exchanges really deliver?
  2. What about the Cadillac tax?
  3. What about so-called single-carrier exchanges?
  4. Is it realistic to expect the best health care price in every region?
  5. How can employers fund benefits on exchanges?
  6. What data and reporting can I expect…

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OneExchange on

Find out more about OneExchange

Welcome to our new look! The OneExchange blog.

The blog’s new name and face reflect changes that began over a year ago when Towers Watson launched OneExchange.

Building on our private Medicare exchange roots, this blog has expanded to include news, research, trends and insights for all workforce populations – from full-time and part-time employees to pre-65 retirees in addition to our original Medicare perspective.

See OneExchange everywhere

You can see the new OneExchange look at all our sites, including:

  • On Twitter:
    • @OneExchange– Check out the new face of our tweet stream.
    • @brycewatch
      On Twitter at @OneExchange & @BryceWatch

      Follow us on Twitter at @OneExchange & @BryceWatch

      Check out the latest from our managing director, Bryce Williams, at his tweet stream.

  • Online:
    • Check out the new face of our private Medicare exchange

      Towers Watson's private Medicare Exchange

      Towers Watson’s private Medicare Exchange

Jim Foreman to lead Exchange Solutions, Carl Hess to succeed Foreman as managing director of Americas Region

In a move designed to help employers better navigate the dynamic health care environment, global professional services company Towers Watson announced plans to unite the company-wide expertise and resources dedicated to health care exchanges and administration within its Exchange Solutions segment.

>> Read the press release

In a new survey from Health Pocket released this week, 65 percent of respondents said they would prefer to choose their own insurance carriers rather than have their employer choose for them. But the majority of Americans don’t have the ability to choose their own insurance company. Sixty-six percent of insured Americans receive coverage through their employer, where health care options are limited to the insurers selected by the company.

Private exchanges emerging into the market today from a number of companies, including Towers Watson, offer the kind of choice that the survey indicates people want. A report by Accenture predicts that private exchanges will surpass enrollment in public exchanges by 2018.

Read the Health Pocket survey here:

With open enrollment on the state exchanges beginning in less than four months, the states are kicking into high gear, announcing carriers, establishing navigator networks, and of course, revealing rates. Premium rates on the exchanges have been seen by commenters as the harbingers of either success or failure. States that announce lower rates are deemed “ACA poster children,” and those with rate increases, disasters, but it’s all more complicated than that.

Recent media coverage surrounding two states, New York (the poster child) and Indiana (the disaster), paint a picture of the disparity in exchanges across the country. But when we look a bit deeper, the success stories aren’t all that remarkable, and the disasters are only slight disappointments.

We’ll start with the good(ish) news:

Last week, New York announced that premium rates on their exchange would be 50% lower than the rates for individual insurance plans available today. This breaking news served as a valuable talking point for proponents of the health care law, illustrating that it will cause carriers to compete and result in affordable insurance premiums. Although a 50% decline in prices is certainly a nothing to sneeze at, consumers in other states probably won’t experience the same level of reductions.

So how did New York’s premiums manage to fall so dramatically? Well, New York’s health care system started off differently than most other states in the country. Even before the 2010 health care reforms were put into place, New York maintained a system of regulations that looked very similar to the reforms under the ACA. No New Yorker could be turned away because of a preexisting condition; insurers couldn’t cancel policies because you got sick, or charge more because of your health status or gender.

The one major difference between the New York health care system and the ACA is that New York never instituted a universal mandate. Because of this, old and sick people purchased care, while young and healthy people chose not to. This led to very high premiums, with no healthy population to balance out the sick and expensive one. Rates in New York spiraled upwards of $1000 for individual plans, and excessive prices further deterred young and healthy people from purchasing on the exchange.

So, beginning in 2014, the health care law will require everyone to purchase coverage, aiming to include young people to better stabilize costs. The individual mandate was a vital piece of the health care puzzle that was missing in New York and its instatement will allow thousands more New Yorkers to afford coverage. But a 50% drop in costs in New York still amounts to a hefty premium for some consumers. Rates on the New York exchange are projected to land between $170 and $965 a month. And while that is a drastic decrease for some buyers it’s not all that cheap for others.

Now onto the bad(ish) news:

In Indiana, rates are projected to jump by 72% and could cost as much as $570 for monthly premiums for the most comprehensive plans. A rate increase this large is never good news, but it doesn’t look too dismal when we view Indiana’s rates alongside premiums for the rest of the nation.

The Physicians Health Plan of Indiana estimates that 45 percent of its enrollees will pick bronze level plans and 38 percent will take up silver plans. This means that the vast majority of enrollees in Indiana are opting for less comprehensive plans with rates that are on the lower end of the spectrum. While Indiana has not released exact rates for metal-level plans, the average, $570, probably won’t be what most people end up spending.

When we look at Anthem Blue Cross’s projections for average bronze level plan, $307 for a 47 year old non-smoker, it comes out roughly in line with rate projections for the rest of the country. What we’ve seen so far is that most “second lowest cost silver plans” are between $300 and $400 across the nation. So while rate increases never sound appealing, when compared to the behavior of the rest of the country, nothing catastrophic seems to be happening in Indiana.

Take a look at the premium rates for other states: State Exchange Table consumers.aspx