The year 2012 proved to be an eventful period for the U.S. health insurance industry. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) continued to charge ahead amid widespread controversies—including a ruling by the Supreme Court—and became infused with a fresh lease of life when President Obama won a second term in office. With last year witnessing the rise of private health exchanges, payer-provider mergers, Accountable Care Organizations, 2013 is now poised to see some important developments and new trends in the U.S. healthcare sector. Some of the landmark changes that are sure to gain prominence in 2013 include:

1. The Year of the State Health Insurance Exchanges – Although the ACA has declared January 1, 2014 as the official Go-Live date for state health insurance exchanges, both state and federal exchanges are expected to open for public enrollment in the last quarter of 2013. As current controversies and conflicts around health exchanges spill into 2013, exchanges are expected to remain the hot topic of debate throughout the year.

2. Increased Growth in Private Health Insurance Exchanges – Private health insurance exchanges is gaining popularity in group markets, providing visible advantages such as increased flexibilities in health coverage and higher predictability in costs as compared to ACA-mandated public exchanges that are still shrouded in uncertainties. Increased employer demand for Defined-Contribution Plans led to the launch of several private health insurance exchanges in 2012, with the trend expected to continue strong into 2013.

3. Increased Measures to Curb Healthcare Costs – Federal programs such as “Pay-for-Performance” and Medicare’s “Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program” sought to reduce healthcare costs in 2012 through improved efficiencies and quality in administered care. With healthcare costs reigning at the top of the industry’s primary challenges, 2013 will likely yield stringent measures aimed at restraining growth in healthcare costs.

4. Surge in Employer-sponsored Wellness Services – With employers’ healthcare costs sky rocketing at alarming rates, employee wellness programs have been pushed to the forefront of health benefits. As employee engagement gains unprecedented popularity, insurance carriers and wellness providers are adapting their health benefit portfolios to encourage healthy lifestyles among employees.

Despite several nerve-racking events, President Obama’s healthcare law survived last year, mostly unscathed. As we step forward into 2013, the U.S. healthcare industry is expected to become fraught with increased activity as federal and state exchanges gradually emerge onto the U.S. landscape, private exchanges gain ground in group markets, Medicare and Medicaid receive an overhaul, and consumers get acquainted with the new, digital way of purchasing their health insurance.

The U.S. healthcare industry’s journey through 2013 will be a sight to watch as trends continue to emerge. We at hCentive are ready to embark with our seat belts on!

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