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New York exchange to offer direct-pay commissions

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Staffers at the New York Health Benefit Exchange are trying to spread the message that they love agents and brokers.

Market researchers working for the Minnesota exchange recently reported that brokers in their state want exchange managers to talk about the value of brokers and to offer dedicated producer support teams.

The agents and brokers themselves have been saying that they want to continue to get their sales commissions and other compensation directly from the carriers and the customers, rather than having the exchanges get in the middle.

Kelly Smith, director of the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) small-group exchange division at the New York exchange, and Joe Muldoon, director of broker relations at the exchange, seemed to take those clues about producer preferences into account when they designed a recent presentation for producers.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) calls for exchanges to open their doors Oct. 1. New York state hopes to run its own exchange program, rather than letting the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) provide exchange services for its residents.

“Brokers will be a primary distribution channel for small-group enrollment  in the SHOP,” the exchange staffers said, according to a written version of the presentation posted on the exchange website. “Brokers also can choose to become certified to sell products in the individual exchange.”

Today, brokers handle about 88 percent of the state’s small-group coverage, the staffers said.

“Brokers will have the support of a dedicated online portal to facilitate  applications and renewals,” the staffers said. “Broker can also serve as employer proxy in [an] employer portal.”

The exchange will support brokers with a full customer service center, and carriers will continue to pay commissions directly to the brokers, the staffers said.

The exchange hopes to have the curriculum for exchange broker certification available by mid-2013, the staffers said.

The curriculum for brokers who want to serve individual exchange customers will focus on eligibility for public health programs and for the new PPACA “advance premium tax credit” (APTC) — the subsidy program PPACA is supposed to use to help moderate-income consumers pay for health coverage.

The exchange will offer a series of broker webinars, with the agendas including topics such as certification requirements and the results of the exchange health plan bidding process, the staffers said.

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