Are vertical exchanges the future of HIX?

If ever there was a technology that the people driving would desperately want to leap from version 1.0 to 2.0 as quickly as possible, well, health insurance exchanges could certainly make a claim to be just that.

While the federal Healthcare.gov exchange and a number of states are girding for a second wave of enrollment, a new HIX cropped up in Washington D.C. that could foreshadow the future: Industree.

It’s a vertical manner of insurance exchange. Industree’s aim is to make complying with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act easy for those organizations that do not tend to be necessarily real savvy about health insurance and now must offer employees coverage before by the beginning of next year.

“Every single option has been designed, negotiated and built specifically for the demographics of the restaurant industry,” Industree president Alisia Kleinmann told the Washington Post in this article. “They keep you in compliance with Obamacare and they’re completely affordable.”

Industree offers more than 15 carrier options, including big guns Aetna, Cigna, and UnitedHealthcare as well as so called “skinny plans” from Loomis for as little as $61 a month — meaning bartenders, cooks and waitstaff that were not previously offered group insurance have access to preventative care, flu shots, prescription meds and a range of outpatient procedures, according to the Post.

One industry analyst told me she’s starting to see exchanges crop up in different areas, though Industree appears to be the first to specifically target restaurants and bars with more than 100 employees. 

Is Industree an early sign that the industry is moving toward HIX 2.0? Or is it way too early for that?