Initial numbers for 2015 open enrollment put participation in Mercer’s Marketplace exchange at nearly five times the size of 2014 rates. The consulting firm also added 40 additional clients to the exchange who were not previously with Mercer.

Mercer said Tuesday that 247 companies are using the exchange for their active or retiree populations, representing more than 500,000 employees and retirees and close to 1 million lives, including dependents. A year ago, the exchange served 52 companies with 110,000 eligible employees and retirees with 220,000 covered lives.

An analysis of purchasing behavior on their exchange showed that, given the opportunity to choose from a range of benefit options, many consumers purchased lower-cost medical plans, according to Mercer. That, combined with access to Mercer Marketplace network arrangements, care management and prescription drug programs, provided employers up to 15% medical plan cost savings. In addition, Mercer Marketplace drove an average savings of 10% on the cost of life and disability benefits.

 “These savings result from Mercer Marketplace’s purchasing power combined with consumer decisions to purchase coverage that is more appropriate to their personal needs,” says Sharon Cunninghis, Mercer Marketplace leader. “The fact that employers were able to achieve significant cost savings while offering their employees the ability to personalize their benefits is exciting news. This satisfaction from both companies and individuals gives others confidence in the exchange experience and positions this as one of the standard benefits models of the future.”

By comparison, Aon Hewitt in September said that of the 18 large employers on its exchange — more than 5,000 employees each, representing more than 600,000 employees and their dependents — each company reduced overall health care cost for medical coverage by more than $750 per employee compared to their expected 2014 spending.

Voluntary benefits

Mercer says that in addition to the active and retiree population using the exchange, several companies are delivering voluntary benefits through the marketplace, covering 330,000 employees or 730,000 lives, including dependents eligible to select benefits through this program. Mercer calls its initial voluntary enrollment numbers modest, but adds that the availability of such benefits on its exchange platform “provides an avenue for both employers and employees to begin to experience the advantages the exchange platform offers.”

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