It turns out your biggest fear with health care reform – the state-based health insurance exchanges through which individuals can more easily purchase qualified benefit plans – isn’t as big of a threat to you as you might have thought.
Today, I spoke with Jessica Waltman, senior vice president of government affairs at the National Association of Health Underwriters, specifically about how the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (H.R. 3590) will affect health insurance agents. You’ve probably noticed that plenty of media attention is being given to how the bill would impact consumers, particularly those with pre-existing conditions or no current coverage. But your voice has been loud in the past week or so since the bill’s passage in the House: What does this mean for us?
Thankfully, Waltman said, health insurance exchanges do not spell an end to the independent distribution system. In fact, she said, the legislation specifically mentions the role that agents and brokers will have in these exchanges, not only in marketing plans, but in helping eligible consumers with the administrative task of obtaining subsidies.
And that’s another thing she pointed out – the sale of insurance policies won’t by any means be limited to exchanges. In fact, until 2017, only employers with fewer than 100 employees can participate.
NAHU’s message boils down to something very simple: Don’t throw in the towel, agents – you are still needed.
“We’re seeing our members, especially with employer clients, just answering questions and helping [clients] make adjustments to plan design and being a valuable information source,” she said. “The demand for agent’s services is at an all-time high.”
My interview with Waltman is a part of our big-picture coverage coming up in the June national print edition of the Agent’s Sales Journal. There, we’ll be revealing the results of our 2010 Health Market Study, including what agents really think about health care reform.