The health plans and Covered California may give lip service to the value of the agent community, but it is not reflected in the compensation we receive. I’m not trying to get rich as an insurance agent. My net revenue listed on my Schedule C for 2016 was $34,000. If the new compensation schedules significantly erode my insurance revenue then I will have to find other income streams. Maybe Covered California will hire me to answer phone calls; I hear they have a great benefits package.
One of my clients received a letter from Covered California notifying her that her monthly premium would jump from $63.64 to $993.45 per month. The letter casually stated that the premium increase was 147.2%. The client is a household of two people one eligible for Covered California and the spouse is on Medicare. When I went through the renewal procedure on the updated Covered California website, I had to re-confirm that the spouse was on Medicare. The final eligibility results were that the Medicare spouse could select a plan at the full premium amount while the primary applicant could select a plan with the monthly subsidies.
What has not been explained was if the increased Silver plan rates were based on existing Silver plan enrollments or projected enrollments. For those individuals and families who receive very little or no APTC the off-exchange Silver 70 plans will be 8.3% to 27% less expensive. People will naturally enroll in off-exchange Silver plans to save money. There will also be people who downgrade their plans from Silver to Bronze to save money, or, enroll in a Gold or Platinum plan for more benefits at an equal or lower cost of a Silver plan through Covered California. Either way, people will exit Covered California Silver plans in 2018. And since only the Covered California Silver plans have the increased rates, will that generate enough money to subsidize those people left in the enhanced Silver plans?
Another annoying change Covered California made was adding little pop-up windows asking for more information called One More Thing. After submitting a change to the income, Covered California wants to know if anyone is pregnant. The only way to get around this is to select the Edit button and select Nobody from the household member selection.
Previously, the CalHEERS application collected the same information for all consumers in a systematic, if non-user friendly process. The navigation and messaging provided in CalHEERS lead to frustration for many users. Also, there were some federal regulations that were not being met regarding the collection of information for some groups, such as veterans.
Now, the interface is easier to read and questions are user-friendly. Since not all questions are needed for all consumers, the application is now “dynamic” meaning questions that do not apply to a user are not displayed. This results in fewer questions and additional time savings for everyone.
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.
If Bribes are a legitimate source of income for Medi-Cal why not for Covered California I thought? When I checked the 2016 Covered California Countable Sources of Income table, Bribes was suspiciously missing from the list. Why is Covered California hiding this significant source of income for many politicians from their consumers?
If you review the 2018 Covered California rate booklet, which doesn’t actually have any rates in it, you notice that many of the carriers are having modest rate increases. Most of the rate increases are around 10% or less. Some carriers such as Blue Shield, Health Net, and Oscar are dropping rates in some regions. What jumped out at me was Molina which was identified as having rate increases at a minimum of 16% and up to 51% in the regions they offer health plans.
If a consumer was in a market where the only choices were Blue Cross and Blue Shield, and Blue Cross was the SLCSP (Blue Shield necessarily being the least expensive Silver plan offered) then these consumers may see their relative tax credit subsidy decrease. This will hold true if the Blue Shield plan, and now the only plan available, continues to have a rate lower than what Blue Cross would have had in 2018.
After sifting through all the reports and data, I’m not sure if either agency is accurately reporting voter registration inquiries through Covered California. While the online registration numbers look comparable between the Secretary of State and Covered California, it is unclear if the data is a measurement of a click to open an online registration web page or an actual complete voter registration action. The voter registration card requests from Covered California seem wildly inflated compared to what the counties are reporting to the Secretary of State. However the Secretary of States figures may also be corrupt by potentially erroneously high requests posted by San Bernardino County and the lack of requests from huge counties such as Los Angeles.