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Colorado exchange bones up on broker strategy

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The board of Connect for Health Colorado (C4HCO) is looking for health insurance sales strategy ideas in a commentary that cites the Colorado exchange as a success story.

The C4HCO board is holding a 2017 planning retreat this week as Republicans remain hostile toward the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), the outcome of the fall presidential and congressional elections is unclear, and the level of major health insurers’ interest in continuing to sell individual health coverage is hazy.

See also: UnitedHealth quitting PPACA exchange programs in Georgia, Arkansas

Board members prepared for the retreat by reading a collection of reports, including one by the State Health Access Data Assistance Center (SHADAC) on how to improve PPACA exchange broker and nonprofit helper productivity, and one by Kathie Mazza of Wakely Consulting Group, who talks about strategies for maximizing broker productivity.

In the SHADAC report, analysts presented numbers suggesting that brokers seem to be out-enrolling navigators, or nonprofit ombudsmen, in most states.

In New York state, navigators have been accounting for about 31 percent of exchange qualified health plan (QHP) enrollments and brokers just 14 percent, but, in most other states included in the SHADAC report, brokers have accounted for a much bigger share of enrollments. In Washington state, the top state listed for broker share, navigators accounted for 33 percent of enrollments and brokers 67 percent.

In Connecticut, in contrast, navigators handled just 3 percent of enrollments and brokers 33 percent. Meanwhile in Kentucky, navigators handled 10 percent of enrollments and brokers 30 percent.

At C4HCO, brokers out-enrolled navigators 40 percent to 6 percent.

Nonprofit exchange helpers are great at reaching people with limited English proficiency and other hard-to-reach people, but brokers tend to be better equipped to talk about health plan choices, and they have existing resources and facilities for enrolling people, according to SHADAC.

Mazza talked about how to make broker networks more efficient, by focusing exchange time and resources on the 20 percent of the exchange brokers who are most effective and most enthusiastic, and will generate about 80 percent of the exchange broker sales.

In 2014, Mazza writes, many state-based exchanges found that only a small percentage of the many brokers they trained made many QHP sales.

“Marketplaces faced with lean staffing arrangements and overwhelmed call centers were being stretched thin supporting the servicing needs of many brokers with few enrollments and innumerable questions and support requests,” Mazza says.

The exchanges in Colorado, Minnesota and Illinois overcame that problem during the 2015 open enrollment period by using an application process to choose “lead broker agencies,” or the agencies most interested in committing to selling exchange QHPs, Mazza says. 

Mazza says that strategy paid off.

In Minnesota, for example, the lead broker agencies produced 14 times more enrollments in 2015 than they did in 2014, according to Mazza.

See also: 

PPACA exchange wrestles with producer comp strategy

Assisters, brokers fight for credit in Colorado


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