For the first time in my life I can commiserate with people who are losing their livelihood because of a government action. Just as some workers have been displaced because the government outlawed a product, changed an environmental regulation, or enacted a trade deal that smothered their industry, I too am on the receiving end of government legislation that will decimate my income. If Obamacare is repealed and the subsidies that make health insurance affordable for millions of Americans ceases, I will lose 90% of my clients.
With the constant erosion of the commission structures to agents for enrolling consumers into health plans in California, many agents have expressed their desire to stop assisting individuals and families with enrollment into Covered California health insurance. There has been renewed talk of allowing agents to charge a consultation fee to make up for the dwindling commissions they earn from the health plans and insurance companies. However, if agents want to make a decent return for enrolling consumers into health plans they need to provide the service so many of them advertise. We need to move from order-takers to consumer advocates, and we need fair compensation for our services.
For the second time since the launch of Obamacare and Covered California, Anthem Blue Cross has cut the commissions they will pay agents for assisting consumers with enrollment into individual and family plans. Anthem Blue Cross now has one of the lowest commission structures for agents helping individuals and families apply for health insurance in California. This commission cut, coupled with rules limiting Covered California delegated agents from receiving commissions, has resulted in agents thinking twice before assisting consumers with Anthem Blue Cross health plans.
Cigna notified their appointed health insurance agents at the end of September that they will not pay any commissions in California for individual and family plans. In other words, or symbols, Cigna has given the middle finger to agents who assist consumers with enrollment into their health plans.
Consumers receive letters from Covered California stating that their estimated income doesn’t match with their most recent federal tax return. This has led many consumers to assume that Covered California can actually view a taxpayer’s federal return. Covered California can’t see a consumer’s federal tax return unless they send it to them to verify their income.
Covered California is not very health insurance agent friendly when it comes to managing an agent’s book of business. Agents seem to be the last to know when Covered California or Medi-Cal makes changes to a client’s account and either strips their premium assistance or dumps them into Medi-Cal. Covered California has developed book of business and conditional eligibility reports for an agent’s clients enrolled in health plans through Covered California.
For independent health insurance agents, such as me, who don’t have access to an already established secure network through a large agency, we have to be more diligent in securing all the different parts of the internet communication puzzle.
Over the course of two different letters to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Burwell, the Executive Director of Covered California, Peter Lee, outlined the benefit of Certified Insurance Agents to their enrollment activities and suggested there should a uniform commission structure for health insurance agents. Mr. Lee’s comments come at a critical time when many health insurance companies are reducing and even eliminating agent commissions.
Anthem Blue Cross, following internal policies to protect agents, prevents their members from selecting their preferred health insurance agent through Covered California. The Blue Cross policy of not recognizing an agent delegation made by a household in their Covered California account prevents the selected agent from properly representing the family members and being compensated for his or her time. The Blue Cross agent of record policy occurs when the Covered California member originally enrolled with another agent or without an agent and the member is considered a house account.
UnitedHealthcare has alerted their appointed health insurance agents that they will not pay any commissions for individual and family plans sold after January 1, 2016. The abrupt cancellation of commissions applies to Marketplace state based exchange plans and health plans sold off-exchange directly through United Healthcare. Commissions on enrollments prior to December 31, 2015, will be honored.