The Executive Director of Covered California, Peter Lee, attempted to rally the health insurance agent community during a recent webinar to address significant deficiencies California’s state health plan marketplace has been struggling with since the beginning of October. Health agents have been frustrated at the various hurdles encountered with Covered California’s web based enrollment system plus the training, learning and certification process to get them set up to sell the new health plans.
A marathon with hurdles is no fun
While I don’t doubt Mr. Lee’s sincerity when it come to helping health insurance agents; there is nothing worse than listening to a motivational pep talk that either by design or ignorance fails to tackle the truth of the situation. Lee was upbeat with the message that we are running a marathon with the ACA and not a sprint into 2014. Most agents feel they are running a marathon filled with no aid stations and numerous obstacle courses.
Who is the sweet spot for Covered California?
Mr. Lee freely admitted that Covered California has not “seen the mix of applicants” they had hoped for in early open enrollment applications. That was PC speech for “we are seeing lots of health challenged and low income folks” signing up for health insurance. Covered California won’t see the mix they want in the early stages. Covered California finally figured out that health insurance agents have what they want.
Covered California needs the healthy people agents have
Here is the hard cold truth. The earliest enrollees are those who have been denied health insurance and those who can’t afford it. Those denied have health challenges. Those who can’t afford health insurance because of income will most likely be Medi-Cal. People with pre-existing conditions skew the membership pool toward the deep end of high claims. Medi-Cal enrollment doesn’t help Covered California generate the revenue they need to be self-sufficient by 2015.
Bring me your tired, down trodden, but mostly healthy applicants
The people Covered California needs to balance their enrollment are relatively healthy people and who can afford individual and family health insurance. Those people either have a health insurance agent or buy direct from the carrier. The insurance companies are doing everything they can to retain their membership and not let people shop through Covered California and see the competition. This leaves Covered California beseeching agents to bring them their clients to enroll through Covered California.
Amazon doesn’t use agents
The original design of the CalHEERs enrollment website was skewed toward consumer use and ignored any agent assistance. Covered California was leaning heavily on the concept of an Amazon type shopping experience for the bulk of Californians and hoping Certified Enrollment Counselors would pick up those with little computer skills. “Agents? We don’t need no stinking agents.”
Certified Enrollment Counselors was a noble idea
The numbers of health insurance agents is surging while Covered California is watching their Certified Enrollment Counselor program stall. Not only is there a realization at Covered California that health insurance agents can help them meet their enrollment numbers, we will bring them membership they need to stay alive. I don’t know how else to say it, but the Certified Enrollment Counselors will have a higher probably of enrolling individuals and families who qualify for Medi-Cal and not Covered California health plans.
Can I get an AMEN!
The pep talk by Peter Lee and Chris Patton of SHOP provided little knew information except to reveal how unprepared Covered California was in designing a system that allowed agents to actually help their clients. It was rather insulting that they would tout system functionality that either doesn’t work or hasn’t been released yet. Seriously, today, I was unable to login to my agent dashboard with either Internet Explorer 10, Google Chrome or Safari on my iPad.
Reinventing the wheel
When I could login, the link that should allow me to adjust a client’s information has never worked. Now, Lee and Patton want me to believe that they will be rolling out new functionality that will let me initiate a client’s account instead of walking the person through opening a Covered California account over the phone. Half of what Covered California is attempting to integrate into the agent dash board has been around for years with the carriers and general agents.
Two broken links don’t make a URL
Finally, webinars are just not the best way to communicate to agents. It is time to drop the show and just go for the pure unvarnished, nuts and bolts, in-your-face emails with real content. For starters, you could update agents on when you plan on allowing parents to sign up for pediatric dental that you have left off the enrollment website. Don’t tell me what you “hoped” to have, tell me what is current, what doesn’t work and when the heck it will be fixed. Such as, when will the agent profiles and biographies actually be visible to consumers when they designate and agent?
Do I really need a disingenuous Covered California?
From the sloppy training, poorly designed and broken website, lack of real information about plans to the patronizing pep talk tone of the webinars, I’m just about done with Covered California. If I didn’t feel so strongly about health care reform and the importance of the Affordable Care Act I would have cut my ties with Covered California long ago and just concentrated on keeping my current clients with their current carriers.
Promises, promises, a month of promises
Covered California…it is time to be honest with yourself and the agent community. Don’t make promises you can’t keep. Just start giving us real information and not the bilge meant for the media folks. Frankly, I don’t care about your Twitter and Facebook campaigns. I want to know when you’ll have the children’s dental plans ready and a website that works.