Managers of HealthCare.gov have gotten 7,350 insurance agents and brokers registered to sell health insurance exchange plans through its enrollment system for 2018, in spite of continuing uncertainty about how the individual major medical market will work in 2018.

As of Thursday, HealthCare.gov managers had registered 1,639 of those agents and brokers to sell group exchange plans, even though, in the past, HealthCare.gov group plan sales have been so low managers have never released group plan sales figures.

(Related: 5 Things HealthCare.gov Is Telling Agents and Brokers Now)

At this point, HealthCare.gov agent and broker registration totals for 2018 appear to be about 47% of what the 2017 open enrollment period producer registration totals were at this point a year ago.

The Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, or CCIIO, has published the agent and broker registration figures for the 2018 open enrollment period on its registration status verification website.

Open enrollment for 2018 is set to start Nov. 1 and end Dec. 15 in the states that use HealthCare.gov.

CCIIO is using the National Association of Health Underwriters, America’s Health Insurance Plans and Litmos, a unit of Callidus Software Inc., to help with producer training. Agents and brokers can also get their training through a government-run system.

CCIIO registers agents only for HealthCare.gov states. California, Colorado, Maryland and other states that have their own state-based exchange programs have separate producer certification arrangements.

CCIIO: The HealthCare.gov Agency 

Drafters of the Affordable Care Act created the public health insurance exchange system, or family of web-based health insurance supermarkets, in an effort to give consumers an easy way to shop for health coverage on the web.

2018 (Image: iStock)

(Image: iStock)

Originally, ACA drafters assumed that most or all states would run their own ACA exchange programs.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services set up HealthCare.gov to handle ACA exchange and account administration services in states that were unable or unwilling to handle the job.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is the division of HHS that’s in charge of running HealthCare.gov and other ACA programs.

The Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, or CCIIO, is the arm of CMS actually in charge of day-to-day operations at HealthCare.gov.

The CMS leadership page shows that Randy Pate, a former vice president of public policy at Health Care Service Corp., is now the director of CCIIO. Health Care Service Corp. is the parent of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans in Illinois, Texas and other states. Pate previously worked at HHS under the administration of President George W. Bush. He has a master’s degree in public health from Johns Hopkins University.

Dean Mohs is the director of the division of small business and agent/broker innovation.

House Republicans have proposed a 2018 spending bill, H.R. 3354, that would eliminate federal funding for the ACA exchange system and prevent exchange program managers from using fees from insurers to keep the system going.

The Republican ACA change proposals that have reached the floor in the House and the Senate in recent months would keep the exchange system intact. 

CCIIO and Agents and Brokers

In the past, agents and brokers reported having trouble understanding how CCIIO worked, getting in touch with live humans at CCIIO, or even with getting CCIIO to send them regular newsletters.

CCIIO has been sending agents and brokers monthly newsletters since at least as far back as June 2016.

This year, in spite of all of the turmoil involving the ACA, CCIIO says it has tried to improve its agent and broker training and registration systems.

The registration system, for example, will now warn a would-be registrant about apparent typos in National Producer Number entries.

The HealthCare.gov is planning to offer weekly webinars for agents and brokers starting in September.

CCIIO does not appear to be saying anything new about whether it will encourage HealthCare.gov plan issuers to offer commissions or enrollment fees, or whether it will help producers encourage exchange plan issuers to pay the commissions and fees that have already been earned.

— Read Obama Administration Adjusts ACA Exchange Program for 2018 on ThinkAdvisor.