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As the next phase of “Obamacare” takes effect with the launch of the state health insurance exchange, the Buffalo-based operator of a leading private benefits exchange for businesses says it’s seeing a surge in interest from midsized and even large businesses.

Liazon Corp., which runs the Bright Choices Exchange, said more than 200 companies have signed up to join the benefits marketplace so far this year, with “many more predicted to join” before the Jan. 1 insurance renewal date for most policies, the company said.

The “exceptional growth” includes a 450 percent increase in new users so far this year when compared with the same period a year ago, and Liazon said it added more “lives” to the system in August than in any other month in the 6-year-old company’s history.

As of now, over 2,400 companies of all sizes, from a range of industries, use Liazon’s Bright Choices, which is an online benefits store. Participating employers give their workers a fixed dollar amount for insurance benefits and employees can decide how to spend it from a range of choices including medical, vision, dental, life and disability insurance, as well as wellness programs, identity theft protection, telemedicine and other options.

“The market has turned the corner. Businesses understand that they have to get the most out of their benefit dollars and to provide programs that really matter to their employees,” Liazon co-founder and CEO Ashok Subramanian said.Liazon sells its Bright Choices to clients nationwide through a network of more than 300 brokers, and also uses its technology to operate several other broker-led exchange platforms. The passage of Obamacare, formally the Affordable Care Act, helped propel private exchanges like Liazon to the forefront because they effectively mimic how the public exchanges operate, giving employers and individuals an opportunity to test out the exchange concept.

“A successful private exchange provider does more than offer a technology platform for enrollment. It has to empower employees to make meaningful choices about their benefits and then give them the tools and products to make that happen,” Subramanian said.

email: jepstein@buffnews.com