The managers of HealthCare.gov are proceeding on the assumption that they’ll still have a Web-based health insurer supermarket to run, and health insurance products to sell, for the 2017 plan year.
Kevin Counihan, the head of the Affordable Care Act exchange program, today held a webinar to promote the agent and broker registration and training period for the fourth annual ACA open enrollment period.
Counihan’s agency, the Center for Consumer Information & Insurance Oversight, has also been posting 2017 registration and training materials on the Web.
The insurance oversight office is part of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), which, in turn, is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The insurance oversight office oversees all ACA public health insurance exchange programs. The agency runs the day-to-day operations for all states that use the HHS HealthCare.gov system to handle exchange plan enrollment.
The exchange system opened for business in October 2013, and the first exchange plans sold took effect Jan. 1, 2014.
Regulators, exchange plan managers and insurers developed an open enrollment period system, or limits on when consumers can buy ordinary individual major medical coverage without showing they have what the government views as a good reason to be shopping for health coverage, to try to keep people from using the ACA ban on medical underwriting as an invitation to pay premiums only when they get sick.
The fourth open enrollment period is set to start Nov. 1 and last until Jan. 31.
CMS insurance oversight office officials have emphasized from the beginning that they see agents and brokers as being critical to the success of the ACA exchange program, especially in the small-group market.
Last year, officials said HealthCare.gov ended its second open enrollment period with 77,600 registered agents. It’s not clear how many registered agents HealthCare.gov has today.
Producers say HealthCare.gov technology has improved a great deal since the first ACA open enrollment period, but they continue to complain about problems with getting information out of exchange managers, keeping themselves attached to their exchange plan clients’ cases, and uncertainty about whether insurers will continue to want to sell individual health plans under ACA rules.
At the recent Health Agents for America meeting in New Orleans, for example, Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-Louisiana), said he thinks officials at CMS and other players in the ACA system have no interest in the welfare of agents and brokers and do want to squeeze them out.
For a look at some of what Counihan said today, and what the CMS insurance oversight office has been posting, read on.
Counihan tried to convey the idea that CMS really does want to work with agents and brokers. (Image: CMS)
1. Thank you.
Counihan said repeatedly that producers are welcome at HealthCare.gov, and that everyone at CMS appreciates the hard work they’ve been doing.
Counihan confirmed that HealthCare.gov has followed a path than many Web-based insurance supermarkets have taken before. (Image: Allison Bell/LHP)
2. Agents and brokers accounted for about half of HealthCare.gov’s 2016 exchange plan enrollments.
Managers of many state-based exchanges post detailed exchange plan activity reports. HealthCare.gov managers do not publish that kind of information.
Counihan said during the webinar, however, that producers accounted for about half of HealthCare.gov’s enrollment activity last year.