Insurers and other organizations that sponsor the new Medicare drug plans should make sure the brokers and agents selling the coverage are up to the job.

Speakers representing insurance industry groups and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid delivered that message here Monday at a Medicare and Medicaid conference sponsored by America’s Health Insurance Plans, Washington.

“Plan sponsors have a lot of responsibility in terms of the training and education of brokers and agents,” Janet Trautwein, chief executive officer of the National Association of Health Underwriters, Arlington, Va., said at the conference, during a panel discussion on Medicare Part D prescription drug plan sales practices.

Sponsors must ensure that producers are certified to sell Part D plans, and that they stay in compliance with CMS rules and regulations, Trautwein said.

Trautwein argued, however, that fears that agents will try to increase their compensation by moving clients from plan to plan are exaggerated.

“Agents make money off a large bulk of clients by enrolling them in a plan and keeping them over a long term,” Trautwein said.

An agent who constantly tries to shift clients “would not be successful in their business,” Trautwein said.

But Trautwein said Part D plan sponsors should keep close tabs on the agents and brokers selling their products.

Trautwein recommended that carriers speak directly with plan members, monitor agents’ phone calls and, in some cases, go on “ride alongs” with producers.

Melvin Sanders, head of Part D marketing at CMS, suggested that carriers check state insurance department Web sites for reports about agents who have recently lost their license.

Carriers owe it to themselves to ensure that their agents comply with CMS marketing rules, because it is their product that ultimately will be judged by the consumer, Sanders said.

The producers “are the people that are going out there with your name on their bag,’ Sanders said. “You want to make sure you have the right people out there.”