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At least some of the state-based Affordable Care Act public exchange plans may be relying more heavily on insurance agents and brokers.
Managers of the ACA exchange programs in California, Minnesota, Nevada and Colorado have all talked a little about their relationships with producers in recent board meeting packets.
In the past, many organizers of for-profit, “web-based insurance supermarkets” eventually shifted toward serving retail agents and brokers, rather than on direct sales to consumers. There are hints ACA public exchange programs may be following on that same path. Here are clues from the board meeting packets.
1. Covered California
Managers of Covered California have always talked about the need for producer support, and they have made a point of requiring California exchange plan issuers to meet minimum producer compensation standards.
In spite of uncertainty about 2018 federal ACA exchange plan rules and subsidies, Covered California now serves about 1.5 million exchange plan enrollees. The enrollee count is down just 2.3% from the 2018 enrollee count.
The number of enrollees new to the state’s exchange program increased 3%, to about 423,000, according to a board meeting packet document.
The increase in new enrollees came as the number of navigators, certified application counselors, and other nonprofit consumer helpers fell 29%, to 2,208, according to a comparison with 2017 board meeting packet data.
Over that same period, the number of exchange-certified agents and brokers fell just 3.6%, to 14,538.
One possible interpretation is that stability in the number of agents working with the exchange program has helped the exchange compensate for the uncertainty at the federal level.
The board of Minnesota’s ACA exchange program, MNsure, has given a small hint of the strength of its agent and broker support in a summary of query data for its nonprofit “assister” help line and its broker help line.
About 75% of the nonprofit assisters who called for help were calling about basic matters, such as asking about the status of previous requests for help. About 15% were calling to ask for help with resetting their passwords or resolving account lockouts.
Brokers appear to be calling with more varied, more sophisticated questions.
Fewer than 9% of the brokers were calling about password resets or account lockouts.
Only 16% were calling for status updates; at least 20% were calling with substantive questions or concerns about clients’ loss of health coverage.
3. Nevada Health Link
Managers of Nevada Health Link have recruited brokers for a “broker storefront” pilot program, and the program seems to have helped the exchange increase participation, during a year that began with some asking whether the exchange would offer any plans for 2018 at all.
The number of plan selectors increased 2.2%, to 91,003.
Brokers handled about 29,000 of the 2018 plan sign-ups, or about 32% of the total
The exchange is planning to put brokers in storefronts again for 2019.
“The exchange is developing specific techniques and material to cross promote and highlight the in-person assistance to the awarded brokers and the awarded localities throughout the open enrollment period,” according to an exchange marketing and outreach report.
4. Connect for Health Colorado
The Connect for Health Colorado (C4HCO) exchange is now serving about 141,000 people with in-force exchange plan coverage, or about 97% of the targeted number for 2018.
Brokers helped about 55% of the 2018 enrollees, according to an exchange marketing and communications strategy slidedeck.
“C4HCO remains committed to supporting the needs of our broker community,” the exchange staff says.
The exchange staff says the exchange hopes to appeal to brokers with dedicated staff support, active communication, and training opportunities.
Goals for this year include increased transparency and a search for “mutually beneficial opportunities to collaborate.”
The exchange has created a focus group with 16 members to work on strengthening its relationship with brokers.
— See How Trump’s ACA World May Work in 2019, for Agents, on ThinkAdvisor.