HealthCare.gov managers may have a shot at holding on to many of the 79,000 agents and brokers who signed up to sell its products this year.
Some producers interviewed said they will let their registrations lapse, but a comparable number said they will re-register.
The registration and re-registration deadline for producers who want to sell qualified health plans (QHPs) from the state public exchanges run by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is Sept. 30 — Tuesday. Producers who fail to register, or re-register, may at least temporarily lose the ability to sell 2014 major medical coverage, and they may be shut out of the HHS exchange open enrollment period until they go through the registration process. It appears that agents who fail to register for the Small Business Health Options Program by Nov. 15 run the risk of getting shut out entirely.
The HHS exchange open enrollment period is set to start Nov. 15 and end Feb. 15.
The Sept. 30 HHS agent registration expiration date has received little media attention, but 2014 exchange agents contacted through United Benefit Advisors, a group for independent agencies, said exchange program managers did a good job of telling them about the expiration date.
HHS has put its Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) division in charge of the program.
Carol Taylor, a benefits advisor in Roanoke, Va., who is affiliated with the United Benefit Advisors (UBA) group, said a total of three benefits advisors registered as exchange agents for 2014. CMS sent e-mails about the re-registration deadline to all of the agents, she said.
Michael Deru — a UBA agent in Utah, a state with an HHS-run individual exchange and a state-run small-group exchange — said CMS and exchange plan issuers sent him several notices about the need to re-register.
Taylor said just one of the three exchange agents in her office will re-register. The office will consider using the exchange program for clients who qualify for individual premium subsidies or for small-group tax credits, but advisors at the office believe system limitations may complicate compliance with state laws, especially for small groups.
Deru said he has already re-registered, in part because he thinks some employers may take a serious look at dropping health benefits and sending employees to the exchange system this year.
Deru would like to see exchange program managers do a better job of telling the general public that enrollees have to pay for exchange QHP coverage, and that people who fail to have a minimum level of coverage may have to pay fines. But, in Utah, he said, “I have felt that the communications with the broker community have been great.”
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article gave the incorrrect date for the start of the 2015 open enrollment period. The enrollment period is set to start Nov. 15.