The New York Health Benefit Exchange for individuals and small businesses opens for enrollment Oct. 1, with the coverage to take effect Jan. 1, 2014.
We need to help consumers and business owners in the state understand this message: An experienced, licensed health insurance agent is the best resource for helping them understand the new health insurance options.
Now is the time for agents and their friends to make sure that agents have the compensation and standing they need to participate in the exchange system, to support a smooth transition to a health care system that will be better for all.
Most people don’t want to leave decisions about their health care to a new state functionary with only limited training.
The professional health insurance agent is not a call center worker with a modicum of training and a FAQ screen with set answers.
Agents have spent years learning about the state’s health insurance market, and years developing relationships with individual consumers and business owners. Those trusted relationships will be even more important when the exchanges open.
The agents who serve exchange users will also have to obtain many hours of formal training to serve individual exchange users, and even more hours of training to help business owners use the state’s Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) exchange.
Just a few months ago, for example, the Metro New York Association of Health Underwriters provided four exchange-related continuing education courses for more than 200 agents who attended the association’s annual convention. The agents learned about the carriers’ new products and received both state and federal legislative updates.
An exchange-certified agent can explain the differences between the bronze, silver, gold and platinum plans; help consumers determine whether they are eligible for subsidies; and help consumers find the most affordable plans that meet their coverage needs.
Many of the new exchange plans will have relatively small provider networks.
Consumers may find that some of the names on the exchange carrier list are unfamiliar.