" One thing is for certain, brokers have, and will continue, to play a big part in the success of the Healthcare Exchanges and Marketplaces. "
As our industry prepares for the next round of open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) on November 1st of this year, Brokers are poised to play an increasingly important role. With the goal of continuing to reduce the uninsured, many state governments are considering the best possible ways to embrace the broker distribution channel to help meet lofty enrollment goals.
States Reach Out to Brokers for Help
Many states, such as Connecticut, are giving larger roles to Brokers for this year’s open enrollment period. Previously, Brokers could only help consumers if they were on-site at the Exchange’s call center. Now, though, they will have consumer calls routed to their offices, allowing them to give expert feedback on plan selections, writes Virgil Dickson. Immediate access to Brokers should not only improve sign ups, but also customer service. “Our customers will be able to go to our website and ask for immediate assistance. Their contact information will be made available to participating brokers—much like an Uber driver is offered fares,” said Luke Clarke, a spokesman for Connect for Health Colorado. “Their information is rolled over to brokers until one picks it up and contacts the customer.”
In addition, if a consumer calls in and is placed on hold, they can opt to have their information texted to a Broker rather than wait on the line. The hope is that this will shorten wait and call times and maximize the number of consumers assisted.
Maryland is also using Connecticut’s exchange model for this open enrollment period and embracing the use of these technology solutions to route calls to brokers on a pilot basis.
Other technological benefits being utilized in November include:
Transparency. In Colorado, consumers (or their Brokers) will be able to log into their account to confirm the date they enrolled, the date they state sent the enrollment information to the carrier and when the carrier received it. Until now, consumers had to rely on customer service to let them know where they were in the process.
Auto-renewal. This function will allow consumers who miss a renewal deadline to continue to receive coverage.
Decisions. The decision-making tool intends to help consumers choose between different plans based on their medical history. This service should be highly useful, as many of the people who chose bronze plans last year for lower monthly costs were disappointed to see that a high deductible needed to be met before the plan could reimburse for services.
Many of these services are second nature to brokers with their non-exchange commercial customers. It is encouraging to see how Exchanges are now embracing their use enabling a better service experience for Exchange enrollees by brokers who are best able to serve their needs.
Survey Results Discuss Broker Productivity
A recently Kaiser Family Foundation survey of Brokers found, among other things, that 66 percent of Brokers say it takes more time to sell a non-group policy in 2015 than it did in 2014. About 57 percent say revenue per policy is down, but 60 percent say they sell more non-group policies now than ever before. However, Brokers are split on whether or not they’re receiving more commission revenue—40 percent say yes, 40 percent say no and 20 percent say it didn’t change.
Other key findings from the survey include:
86% of brokers helped Marketplace customers last year with 79% of brokers saying that the second open enrollment period went better than the first.
Non-group sales have increased for most brokers since the Marketplaces opened in 2014.
The need for “in-person” consumer assistance continues to be substantial.
During the last open enrollment period, 60 percent of Brokers said they helped up to 50 consumers; 20 percent claimed to have helped more than 100.
In terms of time spent signing up a person, Brokers need one-to-two hours to help a client who is applying to the marketplace for the first time, versus an hour for a client seeking a renewal or coverage change.
According to the Department of Health and Human Services, 2.8 million people enrolled or re-enrolled in plans sold on the 14 state-based Exchanges, while 8.8 million enrolled through HealthCare.gov. One thing is for certain, brokers have, and will continue, to play a big part in the success of the Healthcare Exchanges and Marketplaces.