On January 1, 2014, for the first time, all employees (and small employers with less than 50 employees -- or 100 employees, depending on the state) will be able to go to regulated Exchanges (and possibly other Exchanges -- stay tuned) and purchase health insurance coverage. Because of the Exchanges, many employees will have a viable choice for the first time: whether to simply sign up for the employer-offered coverage, or to shop for coverage that is more affordable or more suitable. This new-found choice is expected to have a significant impact on many employers, which are now trying to decide whether to offer coverage and what coverage to offer.

As such, employers need to not only understand whether they will be subject to PPACA's new employer mandate (and what that means), but they also need to understand what choices the new Exchanges are likely to offer to them (if any), and what choices the new exchanges are likely to offer their employees in order to be able to make truly informed choices about what will make the most financial and strategic sense for them in 2014. However, for most employers, these new public health insurance Exchanges remain a mystery. Next week's Executive Alert will begin to shed important light on these new, and controversial, distribution channels.