Open enrollment 2015: Where do agents stand?

The second year of Obamacare is now over, and insurance agents are beginning to see a small light at the end of the tunnel.

Open enrollment 2015: Where do agents stand?

Insurance News


Following the inaugural 2014 open enrollment period, a majority of independent agents and brokers who sold individual health plans through the Affordable Care Act exchanges said it wasn’t worth the bother. According to a survey from consulting firm Oliver Wyman, just 19% of producers said it was “worth their time” to support individual exchange enrollment.
Given the massive technological issues that impeded enrollment, as well as newly reduced commissions for agents, the attitude was hardly surprising. One year on, however, things seem to be looking brighter.
An NPR report released just before the enrollment’s close suggests that many of the estimated 10 million people who signed up for coverage this season used an insurance broker to do so. While no official numbers have yet been released, the pattern tallies with senior analyst Laura Adams’ impression of consumer priorities for health insurance in 2015.
“Shoppers have tended to be more focused on products and prices in the marketplace and not so much hung up on how to get the products,” Adams said, while noting has seen more online traffic on health insurance information this year than last.
Fewer tech snafus have also helped brokers, decreasing the amount of time they must spend with one individual to secure a sale.
Some problems do persist, however. The medical loss ratio provisions in the law have shrunk agent commission significantly and continue to do damage to many agencies’ bottom line.
“This has just kind of devastated the agent community, and has been in place for several years,” Marcy Buckner with the National Association of Health Underwriters in DC told NPR.
“We’ve seen some agents who have been able to really work the new opportunities that they’ve had in the marketplace. [They’ve] continued to grow their business, and have succeeded very well, while the others have still been struggling under this cut in commissions.”
NAHU is continuing to fight the changes, throwing its weight behind a new bill in Congress that would help insurance agents and brokers with those reduced commissions.

H.R. 815, a bipartisan-sponsored bill introduced in the House in February, amends the medical loss ratio requirements to remove agent and broker compensation from MLR calculation.
"The advice and services provided by health agents and brokers provide direct benefits to consumers, so agent compensation should not be considered administrative expenses under the Affordable Care Act," said NAIFA President Juli McNeely. "Many NAIFA members have seen their compensation decrease since the MLR rule went into effect, forcing some to scale back their services to health care clients or refocus on other lines of business entirely. This harms the consumers who rely on agents and brokers to obtain coverage and assistance in understanding the complex health care law.”

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