Covered California has lost a bright spot of advocacy with the announced resignation of their Sales and Marketing Director Michael Lujan. Originally brought on as Director of the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) in June, 2012, Lujan assumed the role of Director of Sales and Marketing for all Covered California insurance products in March of this year.
Director Michael Lujan reached out to insurance agents
Lujan hosted several webinars directed at educating insurance agents about their role in both the individual exchange of Covered California and SHOP. As a licensed insurance agent himself, Lujan had previously worked for Blue Shield of California and several general agencies before being tapped to come on board with California’s new health insurance exchange. There has been considerable resistance and suspicion on the part the insurance agents about Covered California and Lujan went out of his way to assure agents that they had a place at the table.
ACA support was villified
Michael Lujan, along with me and a handful of other agents were black listed by certain members of a Health Care Reform LinkedIn group for our support of the Affordable Care Act. In the conservative world of insurance, any agent that supports anything less than a totally unregulated insurance market place is viewed as some sort of socialist. Lujan has taken his fair share of push back and was successfully educating agents on how their skills and resources were necessary to reach families and small business about the new insurance options offered from Covered California.
Burning midnight oil at Covered California
From my limited interaction with Mr. Lujan he seemed like a very intelligent guy dedicated to making the new health insurance market place a success. Folks I’ve talked to with knowledge of the working environment at Covered California mention that most people are putting very long days and working weekends. Even the latest webinars from Covered California on various topics seem to be less orchestrated as the teams have to juggle last minute changes either from the federal government or internally. While the staff at Covered California is working hard to put together the exchange, some of the regional health plans seem to be asleep at the wheel – Covered California Health Plans Ignore Agents.
SHOP is prepared
Lujan said in a statement that was released, “I am proud to have played a small role in the development of our state exchange and grateful for the opportunity to apply my industry experience to my role at Covered California…I can leave with confidence knowing that our SHOP staff, sales team and agents are prepared for success and ready to get California enrolled.”
Small group is Lujan’s strength
From his past experience, Lujan’s focus has been in the small business group market and that was the area he was initially brought in to manage. In recent months it has become evident that SHOP may not play as well as some people had anticipated. On top of the nervousness from small businesses and their lack of enthusiasm over the ACA, Anthem Blue Cross announced they won’t participate in SHOP.
It’s an odd time to resign
Even though the spokesperson for Covered California indicated that Mr. Lujan will remain on staff until August 9th, why did he resign on the eve of the August 1st announcement of the health plans for SHOP? The insurance carriers to be announced and their respective plans represent a large portion of Mr. Lujan’s work at Covered California. SHOP was his baby. It just strikes me as odd that a dedicated individual would resign when his organization is about to give birth to an important part of the Affordable Care Act.
Two different worlds
The private industry world is very different from the bureaucracy of government. There are many talented people in both worlds, but the work cultures that don’t necessarily mix well together. Insurance agents were starting to warm up to Mr. Lujan and his message. It will be hard to replace the credibility and enthusiasm of Mr. Lujan if, as Covered California suggests, they really believe insurance agents will play a vital role in helping enroll millions of individual in the new ACA health plans.