Determining the difference between public and private alternatives

There’s no question that a fair amount of confusion exists about the Affordable Care Act — including the lack of clarity about the differences between private insurance exchanges and public exchanges.

Beginning now, individuals are, as a result of the ACA, required to either obtain health insurance or face penalties. Most people are covered by employer-sponsored medical plans, but many are not covered and have even previously been deemed uninsurable. Not any more.


Examining the public exchanges

The ACA’s public exchanges were intended to help make insurance more affordable and enable the uninsured to be covered regardless of existing health conditions.

The health plans offered on these public exchanges are labeled platinum, gold, silver and bronze, reflecting the levels of coverage and the cost to consumers. All these plans offer the same core benefits, or minimum benefit sets, and are offered by insurance companies through the public exchange mechanism.

The public exchanges offer only major medical coverage to participants and as a result, voluntary benefits such as vision or dental must be sought elsewhere. Fourteen states have set up their own, state-run public exchanges, and 36 states have chosen to rely on the exchange established by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Thus far, consumers have had varying experiences in the public exchange marketplaces, state or federal, including reporting delays and glitches on a widespread basis.


Understanding private marketplaces

Private exchanges or marketplaces are different. They are open to consumers, whether individuals, employers or groups of affiliates. Private marketplaces make it possible to get information, examine alternatives, decide which plans are best and manage the process directly without any delays or bureaucratic interference.

Private marketplaces have particular appeal to employers who are striving to manage the costs of offering health benefits, while providing an exceptional experience to employees.

Employers can give employees a set amount of money, directing them to a private exchange, or they can utilize the more traditional defined benefit plan.

Enrollees also will be eligible for an array of voluntary benefits such as dental, life and various forms of gap coverage to bridge the difference between the deductible amount and out-of-pocket expenses.

Private insurance exchanges make it easier for the participant to take charge of health and benefit programs.


Consider the Ohio Benefits Marketplace

With this in mind, the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with CieloStar, has established a private health care marketplace available to Ohio employers called the Ohio Chamber Benefits Marketplace,

This marketplace website provides an easy and cost-effective way to shop for health care benefits. Whether you are a company of one or 1,000, we have various benefit options that can be tailored to the needs of your employees.

In addition to major medical plans, the Ohio Chamber Member Benefits Marketplace also provides a comprehensive suite of ancillary health benefits such as dental, vision, life and other insurance options. Through the website, employees can craft a package of health care benefits that fits their needs, not someone else’s.

And most importantly, shopping for health care benefits on our website is easy. In just five steps, companies can be on their way to offering competitive employee benefits at an affordable price. ●

Beau Euton is vice president of membership at the Ohio Chamber of Commerce. To contact the Ohio Chamber, call (614) 228-4201 or visit

William Mehus is the executive chairman of CieloStar. CieloStar and CieloChoice are trademarks of OutsourceOne Inc., a Minnesota-based corporation. For more information, visit

To learn more about the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, like its Facebook page and follow on Twitter @OhioChamber.