The Maryland Health Benefit Exchange is setting up a Producer Advisory Council.
Any individual who is licensed as a health and life producer in Maryland is eligible to apply for the volunteer positions.
Applications are due Jan. 18.
Exchange managers could pick up to about 15 members. The managers hope to pick the members by Feb. 1 and hold the first producer meeting the during the week that starts Feb. 11. The council meetings will be open to the public.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (PPACA) calls for state and federal agencies to make exchanges, or health insurance supermarkets, available to eligible individuals and small groups throughout the United States by Oct. 1, with the exchange-sold coverage starting to take effect Jan. 1, 2014.
States can set up their own exchange programs or have the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) provide exchange services for their residents.
Health insurance agents and brokers have talked about the possibility that some exchange managers may be hostile toward agents and brokers, or hurt producers unintentionally, by adopting rules and operating procedures that encourage insurers to squeeze out producers or cut producer compensation.
In Maryland, exchange managers believe success of the exchange "is dependent on guaranteeing consumers access to qualified plans through traditional routes of commerce" as well as through the exchange website, exchange officials said in producer council announcement posted earlier this week. "Producers are essential participants in Maryland's health insurance marketplace and will continue to play a prominent role in the market."
In the advisory council charter, exchange officials describe the council as a "non-voting body" that will "have input into and will help shape the development" of exchange policies and processes that affect producers.
The exchange managers are hoping the Producer Advisory Council will tell them about health insurance market conditions and give them advice on "areas that impact engagement with the state-based exchange," officials said.
The Producer Advisory Council also will help the exchange managers develop policies, procedures, communication strategies and marketing tools for producers, officials said.
Maryland exchange policies and procedures might have some influence over national and federal exchange policies and procedures, because many of the Obama administration officials, members of Congress, congressional staffers and outside policy specialists who will be shaping national and federal exchange rules actually live in Maryland, slightly "outside the Beltway" highway that surrounds the District of Columbia.
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