The big web broker entities that connect their computer systems directly with HealthCare.gov have no interest whatsoever in playing a major role in policing retail agents and brokers.

The Association of Web-Based Health Insurance Brokers, a Washington-based trade group for the web brokers, makes that clear in a letter sent to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

In the letter, the association says many of the proposed web broker rules in draft HealthCare.gov rules CMS released in August would be difficult or impossible to follow.

Related: 3 darts for agents in the new ACA 2018 draft rules

CMS, an arm of the U.S. Department of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, set up HealthCare.gov to provide ACA exchange plan enrollment and exchange account administration services in states that are unwilling or unable to provide the services themselves.

Some of the web brokers that connect to HealthCare.gov do so to support their own private exchange programs or other in-house programs, but others share their HealthCare.gov pipes with retail agents and brokers.

Related: HealthCare.gov Web broker list shrinks again

In the August HealthCare.gov rules draft, the web broker association gives proposed website display standards as an example of provisions that are “unachievable.”

The draft would, for example, require that web brokers display all standardized exchange plan options in a manner consistent with how HealthCare.gov displays the options. Web brokers cannot necessarily do that, because they may not have the contractual relationships they need to get all of the same information HealthCare.gov gets, web broker association says.

The web broker association also wants CMS to change a web broker auditing proposal.

Having web brokers pay outside firms to audit compliance with privacy and data security requirements might make sense, but CMS should wait until it improves web brokers’ ability to enroll in HealthCare.gov exchange plans directly, without funneling consumers to HealthCare.gov for a cumbersome part of the process, the association says.

Web brokers that can’t yet use a better enrollment process may not have the cash to pay extra auditors, the association says.

The association also writes at length about a CMS proposal to make a web broker responsible for monitoring the websites of retail agents and brokers that use the web broker’s HealthCare.gov pipes.

For more about what the association said about the proposal, read on:

The web broker association says its members could take responsibility for the HealthCare.gov pipes retail agents use, but not the rest of retail agents' websites. (Photo: Thinkstock)

The web broker association says its members could take responsibility for the HealthCare.gov pipes retail agents use, but not the rest of retail agents’ websites. (Photo: Thinkstock)

Web brokers say they have no control over retail agents

The web broker association says HealthCare.gov already imposes many requirements on web brokers that their HealthCare.gov pipes.

A web broker must, for example, send CMS a list of the retail agents and brokers that will be sharing its pipes.

A web broker also must verify that those agents and brokers are licensed by the relevant states and certified by HealthCare.gov, the association says.

The association says CMS now wants a web broker to ensure that the agents and brokers that share its pipes generally comply with HealthCare.gov rules.

The current version of the regulation “reads as if web brokers must ensure compliance of all internet properties owned and operated by the third parties they license technology to, even if those websites or portions of those websites are in no way related or applicable to the web broker technology covered under” HealthCare.gov rules, the association says.

CMS seems to want web brokers to police the retail agents’ marketing, appointment management, corporate information and other web-based activities that have nothing to do with the web brokers’ own systems, the association says.

If CMS makes web responsible for policing agents and brokers at all, it should limit a web broker’s responsibility to policing the aspects of the agents’ and brokers’ websites that are under the web broker’s direct control, the association says. 

If a web broker had to ensure that its own technology complied with CMS rules, and it prohibited the retail agent and brokers using the technology from modifying the technology, that could be a more workable way for web brokers to help with compliance, the association says.

Related:

HealthCare.gov expects to fire about 45 agents per year

HealthCare.gov wants Web brokers’ names on all printout pages

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