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9/8/2010
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Online Insurance Exchange Helps Retirees Make Right Choice

Extend Health's online insurance marketplace is helping to match retirees of large employers with the best healthcare coverage options based on their medical needs and budgets.

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Healthcare reform will soon bring many changes and new offerings in the choices and configurations of healthcare coverage. Online insurance marketplaces are already helping to ease the selection process for some individuals while helping employers rein in costs.

Instead of providing increasingly expensive one-size-fits-all retirement health benefits that often miss the mark of individual retirees' needs, many companies are attempting to control costs by setting aside an annual allotment of money in health retirement accounts, or HRAs, for individuals and their spouses to put toward purchasing their own supplemental healthcare plans. Those coverage plans include supplemental insurance to cover healthcare services, drugs, or expenses not covered by the government's "original" Medicare program, for which individuals generally become eligible at age 65.

However, with thousands of Medicare supplemental coverage options offered by dozens of private insurers, the selection process can be exhaustingly confusing to seniors. That's where online insurance marketplaces are helping.

Among online insurance marketplaces is Extend Health, the country's largest Medicare supplemental insurance exchange, which is assisting dozens of big employers including Volkswagen Group of America, Ford, GM, Chrysler, Caterpillar, Avon, Lawrence Livermore Labs, Eastman Chemical, FedEx, as well as some unions and municipalities, to simplify the selection process for retirees in choosing their supplemental healthcare coverage.

Extend Health's exchange is powered by web-based decision support tools that allow individuals to compare their coverage choices, while helping employers streamline work and control costs involved with providing retirement benefits.

Extend Health offers about 3,500 plans from 55 insurance carriers. The thousands of different Medicare supplemental options offered by the dozens of private insurers, include drug plans, as well as so called Medigap policies to fill coverage "gaps" and Medicare Advantage plans, which also provide extra coverage and can involve preferred-provider organizations and health maintenance organizations.

Because the health needs of individuals can vary greatly, even from year to year, Extend Health's decision support software helps the retirees during open enrollment season to narrow down the selection of plans based on considerations such as the specific prescription drugs a patient takes, whether an individual has a chronic illness, the types of medical specialists the person needs to see, and whether an individual can afford to bear higher or lower co-pays.

Extend Health's tools help individuals evaluate and compare plans costs and benefits. For employers -- who are Extend's clients -- the exchange helps eliminate the need for benefit department personnel to navigate coverage offerings with their hundreds, or sometimes thousands, of retirees.

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