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Life Health > Health Insurance

What will brokers sell after March 31?

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The end of the first public exchange open enrollment period could lead to a big shift in business at any insurance agency or brokerage that sells much individual health insurance.

HHS officials and state regulators developed the open enrollment system to try to discourage consumers from waiting until they get sick to buy coverage.

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius declared at a congressional hearing last week that she still plans to close open enrollment on March 31. Regulators in some states, including Nevada, have talked about extending their enrollment.

If rules prevail, consumers in any state with a federal exchange and in most states with a state-based one will lose their ability to buy any individual commercial major medical coverage from April 1 through Nov. 15 – the scheduled start of next year’s enrollment.

Individuals could still sign up for Medicaid and other government health programs, and employers could sign up for exchange or non-exchange coverage.

Individuals could get permission to have a “special enrollment period” by showing they had undergone an unusual life event, such as the loss of group coverage or the birth of a child, or that they qualified for a hardship exemption for some other reason.

Agents and brokers could continue to sell “excepted benefits” products that fall outside the scope of PPACA, such as short-term medical and critical illness.

Executives at Health Insurance Innovations Inc., a short-term medical insurance broker, noted yesterday in their latest earnings release that the company expects health brokers to be hungry for something to sell once the exchange open enrollment season ends.

Will non-exchange major medical sales really come to a complete halt after March 31?

B. Ronnell Nolan, a Baton Rouge, president of Health Agents for America, said she hasn’t seen any carriers telling her they’ll have major medical coverage she can sell during the hiatus.

EHealth, the parent of, is expecting to be able to sell coverage only to those who qualify for special enrollment periods.

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