Occasionally, I am asked whether I am an insurance agent or a broker. The underlying premise of the question is that the person does not want their insurance options limited to only those insurance companies the agent represents. The assumption is that a broker will not steer the client into an insurance policy that he or she receives the highest commission for. For the purposes of this discussion involving health insurance, there are no brokers, we are all agents. But not all agents are equal when it comes to the health plans they represent.
Posts related to Covered California Certified Insurance Agents and their role helping consumers enroll in health insurance, commissions, carriers, problems.
I share Covered California’s concern that health care sharing ministry programs are a mine field waiting for someone running from ridiculously high health insurance premiums to step on and have the bomb explode. However, I disagree with Covered California’s proposed use of certified agents to be their foil to limit the enrollment in these products. Agents are not the jailers charged with keeping the citizens within the health insurance pool.
The family continued to wait, not paying any of the invoices they received because they figured that Covered California was working to resolve the issue. The health insurance plan was terminated by the health plan for lack of payment. If the consumer does not pay the all the premiums after 90 days, the consumer loses the right to make all the back-premium payments and reinstate the health plan. This is what happened to the family.
If the carriers feel threatened by the HCSM plans, they should lobby the legislature to ban those plans as well. Don’t use health insurance agents, under the guise of retribution from Covered California, to achieve the objective of limiting the enrollment in these plans. I completely get that if all the healthy people leave the pool, the carriers are going to have problems paying claims, and may exit the market altogether. We don’t want this to happen. But I’m just the agent. Don’t shoot me to protect your business model.
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.