Filed Under:Health Insurance, Individual Health

Exchanges remember agents

CMS has started an e-mail newsletter for agents at the HHS-run exchanges.
CMS has started an e-mail newsletter for agents at the HHS-run exchanges.

Managers of the public health insurance agents are trying to reach out a little more to health insurance agents and brokers.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) -- the arm of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that manages the HHS-run exchanges -- has started a electronic newsletter for agents and brokers, about a year after it started registering and training exchange agents and brokers.

The first gives no names of any live humans who might talk to producers. It does give links to exchange producer registration tools and links producers can use to register for Spanish-language PPACA webinars.

The boards of several state-based exchange boards have considered producer-related matters at meetings this week. In Oregon, for example, the Cover Oregon board looked into agent commission processing. The exchange was getting complaints about problems with commission payments.

A month ago, the board heard that the exchange was having trouble with getting commission payments out promptly. In July, the exchange received $824,962 in commission deposits, processed $846,313 in commissions, and paid $778,620 in commissions to 698 agents and agencies, according to a report in a board meeting packet

At this point, the unpaid commissions amount has shrunk to about 15 percent of the commissions due amount, officials said. The exchange has the equivalent of 17 full-time employees working to resolving the remaining problems. 

Officials said the delays were caused by many different factors, including insurers postponing the dates when coverage took effect; consumers failing to pay their premiums and losing their coverage; problems with clients having multiple records; and insurers paying commissions on the wrong family member's account.

In Washington state, the board of the Washington Health Benefit Exchange talked about agent/broker strategy. The exchange staff in that state does not that think it can create a direct broker interface for its enrollment system, so that brokers can have consumers sign up for coverage through the brokers' own public exchange portals.

Members of the exchange staff said they can accomplish other items on a list of proposed tactics, such as:

  • Moving resources for producers that are now located in many different places to an existing exchange broker site.
  • Giving producers the ability to submit questions online, through a fillable form.
  • Giving producers the ability to share their computer screens with clients during the application process.
  • Improving producer support services, such as adding in-person field assistance, technical advice, and help with account password problems.
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