With Covered California moving forward on the Navigator grant program consumers will have to contend with even more and potentially confusing marketing for ACA health plans this fall during open enrollment. The new Navigator program will allow non-profit organizations that receive grant money to create radio and TV commercials along with opening store fronts to sell health insurance. The challenge before Certified Insurance Agents is how to educate consumers about an agents unique and valuable role in assisting consumers with enrollment in Covered California health plans. A small step might be to create a free list of Certified Insurance Agent by county and city here on the California Health Agents and Brokers Guild website.
Are agents lost in marketing noise of Covered California?
The affordable Care Act authorizes the use of multiple designations to spread the word about how the new ACA health plans and exchanges operate. Some of those designations are Certified Enrollment Counselors, Assisters, Certified Application Counselors, Certified Outreach Educators, Certified Enrollment Entities and coming in the fall of 2014 – the Navigator. But only one authorized represented of ACA and Covered California health plans, Certified Insurance Agents, have the ability to actually provide real world experience about health insurance. Only Certified Insurance Agents (CIA) can recommend a health plan to individuals and families, a distinction lost on many consumers.
Navigators will walk and talk like agents
The Covered California Navigator grant program is proposed to be run like a sales operation. The plan is to distribute the $16.9 million to 135 lead organizations targeting 130,000 new enrollments and assisting 50,000 consumers with renewals. A few attributes of a Navigator include
- Requirement to participate in a coordinated ground campaign with Covered California
- Will have the flexibility in choosing subcontractors
- Receive a minimum of $50,000 grant award up to $1 million
- Be allowed to spend up to 10% of the grant award on media buys.
- Receive bonuses for high enrollment performance
- Encouraged to open store fronts
Down load the full outline of the Navigator program at the end of the post.
Navigators pushed to focus on CIA market
Navigators will not be reimbursed a specific amount for each enrolled household like the Certified Enrollment Entities. They will be paid on meeting their target goals of enrollment and outreach. Several organizations who are contemplating submitting applications to become a Navigator were complaining at the last Covered California Board meeting that the enrollments will only be counted if they are effectuated. In other words, the enrollee has to make their first premium payment for the health insurance before it is counted toward the Navigators total. Because the Navigator program puts an emphasis on counting enrolled households in subsidized Covered California health plans and there will be bonuses for Navigators exceeding their enrollment goals, these state funded Navigators will act and appear just like Certified Insurance Agents to the public.
Where’s the strategy alignment with Covered California?
It is interesting to note that one of the goals of the Navigator program on the Covered California side is to Coordinate with Certified Insurance Agents, Certified Enrollment Counselors and Educators to ensure strategy alignment. Unless Covered California is considering funding Certified Insurance Agents like they propose for the Navigators, there really isnt strategy alignment to contemplate. Of course that could change if agents and brokers decide to employ some unique marketing and field strategies during open enrollment.
Guerrilla marketing for health agents
Individually, most agents wont have the time and resources to mount a marketing campaign to California consumers for health insurance in their local area. But there is no reason local agents cant work cooperatively and leverage the marketing of the Navigators. For example, if a Navigator announces and enrollment event at a public venue, local agents might be able to also be in attendance with their own pop-up tent, tables, and chairs to accept applications. Other agent cooperative marketing initiatives might include mall kiosks, farmers markets or actually renting space for a temporary enrollment office.
Making Certified Agents visible with a free listing
The first step in any cooperative marketing effort requires making the local connections. The California Health Agents and Brokers Guild website will create a page(s) listing for all agents that would liketo have their information published. This wont be a data base hidden from the view of internet search engines. The agent listing will be by county andcity for anyone to view. There will be no cost for listing. The Covered California agent listing is not visible to internet search engines and israrely used by consumers. With leveraging key words such as agent, city, county, health insurance and Covered California, a list of local agents will at least get seen by consumers looking for help. If an agent hashis or herown website, the inclusion of the agent’s URL will provide a modest inbound link to help the site’s organic search ranking.
Agents helping agents
Whereas it wasnt the mission of the CalHAB Guild to market agents per se, the value of Certified Insurance Agents seems to be getting lost in the multiple marketing messages being delivered by Covered California, Outreach and Educational organizations and soon the Navigator program. If you would like to be listed on this website please fill out the contact page with the following information-
- Individual Name
- Street address (optional)
- Zip code
- Phone number
- CDI License Number
- Covered California Certification Number
Listing is not an endorsement
Agents and brokers can then view the website pages to see other certified agents in the local area that might want to work on cooperative marketing of Covered California health plans. The information you supply to the Guild will not be sold or used for any marketing purposes other than to put it on the website. There will be a disclaimer that the information has been voluntarily submitted by the agent and that consumers should always check to make sure the agent is in good standing with California Department of Insurance and Covered California.
Why bother helping the competition?
From my perspective, Covered California does not fully understand or appreciate the knowledge and skills of health insurance agents. From an agent’s experience, continuous training and carrier network, there is no other group of individuals so uniquely prepared to help consumer’s enroll in ACA health plans. If this website can be of assistancein connecting consumers to agents and agents to agents for marketing purposes, all of California will benefit.