The tens of thousands of incomplete insurance applications created through California’s state health exchange have caused no small headache for those banking on the success of the Affordable Care Act. Without enough applicants, the risk pool for the exchange could skyrocket and set health premiums soaring in 2015.
In a somewhat controversial effort to boost enrollment figures, officials with Covered California released contact information for owners of the aborted accounts to independent insurance agents—a move some say will increase business for producers looking to offset the decrease in health insurance commissions caused by the ACA.
The choice to release individual contact information is part of a pilot program created by Covered California to reach individuals with “in-play applications” who may need help to complete the enrollment process.
“These are people who input some level of information into the system but didn’t complete the application process,” said Neil Crosby, a spokesman for both the National and California Association of Health Underwriters. “Covered California gathered all of that information, wanting to make sure they didn’t fall through the cracks, and sent it to certified insurance agents to follow up with them and offer assistance.”
Crosby noted that while some have expressed privacy concerns over the release, it could mean a great new source of business for the 7,700 exchange-certified producers in California.
“It has potential [to be beneficial], yes,” Crosby said. “I think Covered California didn’t feel they had the time to do it themselves and were looking for the support of the agent community. So far, there have been tens of thousands of people contacted, and I've only heard about one person who's complained.”
Steven Hurd, a certified producer with Covered California, was the recipient of some of those names. He told Insurance Business he was grateful for the leads, some of which turned into customers of Hurd’s San Diego agency, Pacific Health Brokers.
“On a few occasions, [the applicants] had no agents assigned and had gone onto the exchange by themselves,” Hurd said. “I’ve worked the list and they’ve turned into clients for me. We’ve established a relationship with them, and for those who aren’t interested, we say ‘Hang onto my name in case you need us.’”
Hurd said in many cases, the owners of the incomplete applications thought they had completed the enrollment process and were surprised to discover they had not. According to Anne Gonzales, a spokeswoman for Covered California, that was the exchange’s goal all along.
“For all we know, [these individuals] may think they are finished,” Gonzales told the Sacramento Bee. “We don’t want to lose them if they are interested in getting a plan.”
Crosby commented that Covered California "[didn't] feel they did anything wrong" by releasing the names.