Producers react to opening of Obamacare exchanges

Producers react to opening of Obamacare exchanges | Insurance Business America

Producers react to opening of Obamacare exchanges

It’s opening day for the long-awaited Obamacare health exchanges, but insurance producers say they’re not too worried about how the federal government’s insurance marketplace will affect business. In fact, many are optimistic that the Affordable Care Act will bring even more clients through their doors.

“I’m hoping there will be a large influx of customers,” said Chris Burton, president of Blue Mountain Insurance in Provo, Utah. “People who haven’t had health insurance in the past and don’t know a thing about it will be wandering into the market, and I’ll get a lot of business out of it.”

Burton said he’s not concerned about the exchanges or the federally-appointed navigators—government-funded industry experts who will guide individuals and small businesses through the insurance exchanges. Because navigators are not permitted to make specific recommendations, Burton believes there is room for both navigators and producers in the new health insurance landscape.

“Navigators don’t worry me,” he said. “It seems like they’re doing a mini-agent role without any agent authority.”

Navigators are also temporary figures in a client’s life, added Joshua Weinstein, senior vice president of Northrim Benefits Group in Anchorage, Alaska. Producers, by contrast, represent a partner for life.

“Navigators are temporary positions that help people find a safe place to land. We see our role as complementing their work,” Weinstein said. “We can make suitability recommendations, which they can’t. We’re looking to build relationships with people in the long-term, while they’re essentially only a traffic director.”

If Burton and Weinstein are right, producers can expect to profit from the opening healthcare exchanges. More than 44m Americans have no health insurance, and another 38m have inadequate coverage. Comparing rates on a government exchange website will help direct the uninsured to insurance producers.

 “The government is touting a website and a phone number, which is great, but they’re not touting people who understand the nuts and bolts of how a healthcare insurance policy works,” Weinstein said. “With government subsidies and other considerations, it’s a complicated decision making process and most people will want a broker to walk them through it.”

The health insurance exchanges for individuals went live Oct. 1, while exchanges for small businesses will open one month later on Nov. 1.