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Number of Covered California agents up 11 percent

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Insurance agents and brokers have been trading horror stories about 2017 individual health insurance commission cuts for months, but the state-based Affordable Care Act exchanges are still hoping they can find a way to get consumers through their virtual doors for the 2017 open enrollment period.

Covered California, a state-based ACA exchange with 1.3 million enrollees, says it had 14,398 certified insurance agents at the beginning of October, or 11 percent more than it had a year earlier.

Covered California includes agents in its guide to finding local, in-person help. The link to the guide is right next to the link that leads to Covered California’s online enrollment system., the system  that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services set up to provide ACA exchange enrollment and account administration services in states that are unwilling or unable  to provide the services, requires its agents to get recertified every year. Covered California does not.

Related: 5 state-based exchange steps toward 2017

It’s not clear how many of the Covered California agents are still interested in selling exchange coverage. Peter Lee, the executive director, said exchange managers will build momentum by running a new television ad aimed squarely at the state’s remaining uninsured people, and by organizing a bus tour that will start Nov. 12.

“We are incredibly committed to marketing,” Lee said last week during a board meeting, which was streamed live on the web.

Covered California and other state-based exchanges are marketing the open enrollment period through their Twitter feeds today. Nonprofit exchange assistance and enrollment services were also out marketing their services through Twitter.

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Commercial agents and brokers do not seem to be doing much to market individual health services on Twitter today, but eHealth, the Mountain View, California-based parent of, a Web broker, has an ad aimed at ACA open enrollment period shoppers that comes up for consumers who search for terms such as “health insurance,” “buy health insurance” or “compare insurance.

Although Hartford, Connecticut-based Aetna has talked about pulling back from the individual major medical market in 2017, and especially from the ACA side of the market, it also has open enrollment 2017 ads showing up on Google.

Hartford, Connecticut-based Access Health CT, the state’s ACA exchange, and Frederick, Maryland-based Maryland Health Connection, that state’s ACA exchange, are trying to multiply their marketing muscle by offering mobile-based enrollment apps.

Access Health CT is combining its mobile app campaign with an effort to tell consumers about the open enrollment period end date. ”Open Enrollment Ends on January 31, 2017,” the exchange warns at the bottom of one mobile app ad on Twitter.

Consumers who know what happened in 2016 may also have other reasons for a sense of urgency and concern: In 2016, some individual health issuers that saw their enrollment in bargain-priced plans was growing much faster than their capital levels cut off new sales in the middle of the year, or even before Jan. 1, 2016.

A few of those carriers failed in the middle of the year. Enrollees had just weeks to decide between signing up for new, higher-priced coverage or going without coverage.


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