Healthcare Reform Specialist Certificate? Marketing gimmick

specialist certificate

Certificates mean nothing if you don’t have the integrity to back them up.

Once healthcare reform or the Affordable Care Act was upheld by the Supreme Court on last Thursday, I was waiting for the marketing wagon to start rolling. The first of the marketing crap to hit my inbox was a solicitation to become certified as a Healthcare Reform Specialist. All I had to do was travel clear across the country to Florida, pay $600 and pass a test that has not been vetted by anyone but the organization that wants my money.

Putting lipstick on a pig

Now all the health insurance agents that hate the ACA and actively blogged against it will now have the opportunity to put a little button on their website saying they are “certified” in healthcare reform. How does the old adage go, “If you can’t beat them, join them.”?

Even though I have read most of the original PPACA text, blogged in support of the ACA, have a page dedicated to healthcare reform benefits on my website and sent out thousands of tweets on the #ACA, I’m not a real specialist until I pay $600. As a comparison, it cost me $20 to take an 8 hour on-line course to be certified to sell annuities in California.

Here’s a novel idea for my fellow health insurance agents, go to and study what’s in the legislation and how it will impact your current and prospective clients. Better yet, if you support the repeal of the ACA stop selling health insurance. Go make a living selling something you believe in.

Let the scare tactics begin!

To all the potential individuals, families and businesses that will be looking for health insurance in the future, beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing. Someone sporting a certificate that they are a healthcare reform specialist is nothing more than a marketing gimmick to gain your trust. If the sales person doesn’t believe in the ACA they will be attempting to sell you something they make the highest commission from, not what is right for you.

I am sure this is just the first wave of marketing gimmicks and scams that will dribble into my email folder. My larger concern is the waterfall of disingenuous marketing that will be aimed at consumers scaring them to buy insurance without knowing all the facts of the ACA.

  • Claudia K. Nichols

    Thanks for this. In fact, I have seen such advertisements by a LinkedIn group.

    • Kevin Knauss

      All health insurance, pre and post health care reform, can be complicated. I don’t see why you need a special designation for something you should already be doing; keeping informed with industry changes. Some folks will do anything to attempt to impress a prospect.


    Kevin-i came across your page because it discussed the issue of certification for healthcare reform as marketing based. I suspect you are correct about that. Although you assume that the class is without value. In my thinking, you would be more credible if you merely said you have strong doubts rather than making a strong conclusion. Similarly, you say that agents who were anti ACA should stop selling health insurance because you assume that they do not believe in it. And want to award yourself points for having supported ACA all along. Geez, Kevin. Opposition means we are to pack our bags and go home? What if we have families to support, as just one concern? I did not stop driving in the years when they reduced the speed limit to 55 from 65. For a blog that apparently is available to the public, you are demonstrating self righteousness, lack of sensitivity and arrogance. There is always bound to be some limited audience for such small mindedness. But, my guess is that you are hurting your image overall with these elements. You may well be a superior agent. So, perhaps you can focus on practical and helpful commentary.

    • Kevin Knauss

      Your line about “hurting your image” sums up the totality of your shallow perspective. You are more concerned about your image as it relates to sales and money than you are about being honest. If an insurance agent is dumb enough to pay $600 for a class on health care reform before all the rules were written and none of the exchanges were up an running he or she is stupid. HHS just finalized the rules for the ACA this past week and California just released a “non-working” version of their health care exchange website. There is no way a class on health care for the purposes of a certificate will tell the agent anything that the carriers aren’t reporting on in producer alerts every week. The certificate is solely to make money for those who sponsor it and to coddle lazy people that don’t want to read.

      My cynicism about the necessity for a health care reform certificate comes from the parade of get rich quick schemes in the insurance industry. Agents that were damn adamant that the ACA is the communist black hole that America is being sucked into, will now put a smile on their face and tout the benefits to make sales. I would rather refer an agent to a client that is openly opposed to the ACA than someone who hides their true beliefs. Those who are duplicitous are the same folks that give all insurance agents a bad rap.

      People may find me to be self righteous, insensitive or arrogant but they are getting me and the truth. I will not put out a bunch of pablum fed to me by the insurance carriers about the benefits of their products. The fact is, that when you put profits before people, you have lost any moral high ground you may have established with health insurance saving and improving lives. When you work to deny, delay and obstruct care to patients and then put on a happy marketing face to attract new members, I think the insurance carriers have taken the trophy for being self righteous, insensitive and arrogant.

  • Joe Hackman

    Nice commentary about the CHRS program which absolutely has value in both content and practical application. This coming from a guy who blogs under insuremekevin. Classic!

    • Kevin Knauss

      There is value to the program, but not for the cost they were initially charging. Plus, the title or certificate is not approved by any government entity that I am aware of and may mislead consumers to the actual ability of the agent.

      Healthcare reform is thoroughly complicated. HHS is still writing the rules along with the state exchanges. You can’t take one course in January of 2013 and be up to speed on all the rules that were still to be written.

      Thanks for reading.

  • Richard A. Paxton

    Kevin I completely agree with you; the whole CHRS seems like a money making gimmick. I am a fellow Independent Health & Life Agent in Southern CA. If you observed (or later downloaded) the Covered California Agent Webinar on March 8, 2013 you know that there are four things required for an Agent to participate in Covered CA:
    1. Active CA Life & Health Agent in Good Standing
    2. Complete Agent Training (offered by Covered CA)
    3. Certification Exam
    4. Sign your Agent Agreement

    Don’t get me wrong, I am a firm believer in Continued Ed and think that as professionals we have an obligation to be well informed and educated. I wonder what the CHRS training/certification cost will be once Agents/Brokers realize that the only Certification that matters is the one that they will have to obtain from the State (Covered CA).

    Richard A. Paxton, CA LIC. 0D070320

    • Kevin Knauss

      I am following Covered California closely and have written several blogs on the exchange and healthcare reform in general. I am not opposed to an industry seminar or program to help agents wrapped their arms around the new market place, rules and regulations.

      However, each state is going to be slightly different and one course will not fit all sizes. Heck, I am still grappling with the nuanced differences between an In-Person Assister and a Navigator! I have attended virtually every Covered California webinar and there are still gaps in the information.

      My latest blog was on the potential glitch between an employee being offered “affordable” group insurance which would prevent them from the tax credits offered through the state exchange.

      What are the ramifications if a “Certified healthcare reform specialist” advises a client to decline group coverage and apply through the state exchange for the tax credits and later the state determines they are not eligible for the tax credits because of the “affordable” group plan?

      On this point, the ACA is too complex and will lead to problems. You’ve got it right: agents should be watching for information and training from their respective state.

  • Cathy Miller

    If this is the same one I’m aware of, you are spot on with your skepticism. I am a business writer with 30+ years in insurance. I still maintain my broker license, The particular course I am aware of had the “textbook” written by industry professionals. I know because I was approached to do a chapter. I had written an article once for their magazine.

    When I asked what the authors received for their efforts, the answer was a free copy of the book and, of course, all the fame from being recognized as an expert. Ha! Now, it could be the people writing the chapters ARE industry experts, but how do you know? And the fact that someone else packages it together and sells it at a ridiculous price to profit off of, well, that really rubs me the wrong way.

    • Kevin Knauss

      Well Cathy, coming from the industry you understand the continuous thread of marketing implicit in all industry education. Yes, there are always important nuggets of factual program information that are included in these seminars and certificates. However, everything always seems to be colored with the perspective of steering clients into your corral: sales, sales, sales.

      If you can’t make the sale from the health insurance, get your foot in the door to sell life, auto, disability, annuities, etc. While I am not necessarily opposed to that, leveraging healthcare reform as the go to “expert” for nothing more than to increase your pipeline of prospects is a little slimy.

      My other skepticism is that these are the same people that fought against and continue to oppose and fight against the Affordable Care Act.

  • Paula Wilson

    Kevin I would tend to agree with you on being certified as an expert in anything in a 24 hour period is not reasonable. But I never knock a chance to educate anyone. It also gives some people who actually are experts the chance to put something on their card.

    I think the funniest use of the certification is when payroll companies start using it to steal business from those of us that are serious about our occupation

    Giving out certifications in such short order doesn’t do much for the RHU and REBC And other designations I have spent years on.

    After spending over 30 years in the business and thousands of hours in legislative volunteer work on health care reform on a national level, I know what it takes to be an expert. Some of those people getting these certifications are experts. I’ve worked with many of them for decades. And God bless the newcomers, they are at least trying to learn something.

    • Kevin Knauss

      You are right on the mark Paula. I just completed the yearly “Ethics” continuing education and was reminded about designations and certifications that are essentially in name only. I bow down to folks like you who have knowledge because of your experience. I am certainly in the newcomer camp but it became apparent fairly quickly that no was going to pour knowledge into my head. It is gained by experience and plain old study.

  • cheebo

    I just completed the CHRS. I’m amazed at your misinformation regarding the program. I guess I could opine your too cheap to participate in the training or unwilling to invest the 17 hours. Covered CA will teach you about the insurance products and underwriting specifics but its not the same information learned in taking the CHRS courses. CHRS invaluable in-depth PPACA information about taxes, incentives, ACO’s special rules regarding stability, measurement and administrative periods SIMPLE cafeteria plans etc, contained in 17 modules with all presentations by attorney and CPA consultants from benefit consulting firms such Buck, Deloitte. Unless Cathy Miller has those type of credentials … she is blowing smoke about CHRS request for her contribution. BTW the course is 17 video presentations and the workbook is essentially the presenter’s powerpoint slides

    • Kevin Knauss

      Who are you? Would you care to use your real name or do you prefer to be an anonymous flame thrower.

      How about you read the 10 plus posts I have written on Covered California, the webinars they’ve held and the contracts they have proposed.

      There are some arcane and technical rules for large employers that can’t be explained or fully grasped in a quick email and are better suited for a forum type learning discussion.

      However, if the average agent can’t figure out the ACA on their own, they shouldn’t be selling insurance. Each state is different and one course won’t fit all. California is so different it could have its own course.

      But since you work for the company that puts on the “wallet lightening” program, send me the course work book and maybe I’ll give it my seal of approval.

      • cheebo

        I’ve been an agent for 34 years and have no affiliation with CHRS. How can you criticise the program when you have’t even reviewed the course work content for its content rigor. The other poster had it right – arrogant.

        • Kevin Knauss

          My post was a direct response to the initial marketing of this certificate gimmick. $600 for a “certificate” that has no meaning and possibly misleads the public?

          Does the course have some merit? I am sure it does. But that merit was not communicated in the initial marketing and smell of just another gimmick to make money for the promoters.

          So, you never told us your name or your website. How professional of you to come on my website and puke all over my post. If you have an opinion, go write your own blog. But your reluctance to reveal your identity is indicative of agents who want a marketing edge without actually doing the work.

          You probably are an ardent opponent of the ACA, but have found religion when you figured out that you could make some money from it.