While congressional squabbling over funding the Affordable Care Act has led to a federal government shutdown, state governments opposed to the healthcare law are taking a more laissez-faire approach in their hostility. By essentially ignoring the online health insurance exchanges that opened this week, some states have made information about requirements and options under the ACA difficult to find.
Up north, however, one brokerage firm is attempting to fill that knowledge gap and turn it into a profit.
Enroll Alaska, a branch of Anchorage-based Northrim Bank, is a brokerage committed to educating and enrolling uninsured Alaskans in healthcare plans. According to Senior Vice President Joshua Weinstein, the group’s goal is to turn a large portion of the state’s 66,000 uninsured residents into Northrim clients.
The state government’s decision not to create its own healthcare exchange made that goal easier for Enroll Alaska, because it meant most Alaskans went without proper information about the ACA and needed somewhere to turn.
“Because the government chose not to participate, we didn’t get a lot of federal money to promote the law. That means there’s a vacuum of information on what the Affordable Care Act is meant to do and how it works,” Weinstein said. “Who better to educate Alaskans and help them select a plan than professionals who understand health insurance?”
Enroll Alaska launched in August and set up locations in state hospitals and clinics, as well as local Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club stores. Northrim employees advise residents on whether or not they qualify for federal tax subsidies and help them choose a health insurance plan.
The group could profit significantly, as the two insurance companies participating in the Alaskan marketplace, Premera Blue Cross Blue Shield and Moda Health, pay enviable commissions. Premera pays a $25 monthly commission per person, while Moda pays 6% of the premium, Enroll Alaska said.
That’s a profit that will continue to grow, as Alaskans periodically review their healthcare coverage.
“We’re in this for the long-term,” Weinstein said. “We’re going to grow a book of clients and service them well. We’ll be here throughout their entire lives.”
Weinstein added that individual feelings about the ACA in Alaska and in other states won’t change the way the marketplace runs, or how they’ll do business.
“Many Alaskans are scared or angry about the ACA, and they’re very opposed,” he said. “But even though they disagree, it’s a law. They need to know how to make a decision, whether that’s to take the penalty or purchase a plan. Being a brokerage firm, we’re familiar with health insurance products and we can advise them on that.”
Enroll Alaska will run until March 2014, when all U.S. citizens will be required to have health insurance.