By assuming that Covered California is one big selling machine, the report also paints agents as little more than clerks at a supermarket. Agents do more than just ring up the consumer’s purchase and then watch them take their goods out the door. Agents, just like Covered California customer service representatives, are available all year to help with reporting changes to Covered California and assist with health plan problems. Some agents have complained that Covered California helps enroll the easy cases and the agents must work with individuals and families who have more complicated households, immigration issues, and income questions that require more time.
A review of 50 randomly selected terminated Covered California agents, as of May 12, 2017, showed 36 agent licenses were still authorized to transact insurance through the California exchange when reviewed through a DOI license search. 10 of the agents showed no authorization for Covered California. 3 agents were listed as Inactive and 1 had their licensed revoked. Of the fifty agents, 5 resided outside of California; 4 from Florida and 1 from Arizona.
California individual and family plan health insurance carriers have been combating fraudulent enrollment for open and special enrollment periods. Many of the health insurance companies have placed additional requirements on applicants to verify California residency. Unfortunately, enrollments through Covered California, which have virtually no verification of special enrollment eligibility, continue to be a source of high-cost claims from fraudulent enrollments.
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.
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.
Medi-Cal advocate Beth Capell smeared the reputation of all health insurance agents by insinuating that agents enroll Medi-Cal eligible children in private plans just for the commissions they derive from those enrollments. Ms. Capell is assuming, incorrectly, that all health agents put money above the best interest of their clients. It’s unclear where Ms. Capell’s animus towards health agents springs from when thousands of agents have assisted tens of thousands of families with enrollment in Covered California and Medi-Cal health plans.
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.