The second time around was better than the first as far as open enrollment period was concerned. That’s the word from health insurance brokers who helped consumers sign up for coverage in the second enrollment season under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
In addition to seeing a smoother sign-up period, most brokers reported their business had increased during the second enrollment season, according Kaiser Family Foundation research. Brokers reported helping almost twice as many consumers apply for coverage through the marketplace compared to outside the exchanges.
Sixty percent of brokers report their non-group sales have increased since the marketplaces opened. However, two-thirds of them said it takes more time to sell a policy than it did in the pre-ACA days and more than half said the revenue they earn per policy is less. Despite that, 40 of brokers surveyed said they earn more income overall from non-group commissions than they did prior to implementation of the marketplaces. On the flip side, 40 percent said their overall commission revenue has dropped and 20 percent said their overall non-group commission income is about the same.
Nearly all the brokers who registered to sell health insurance through the ACA marketplaces in the first enrollment season in 2013 returned for the following sign-up period. Of those brokers who signed up consumers during both enrollment periods, 79 percent said the second enrollment season went more smoothly than the first. The main reason for the easier sign-ups in the second year? The marketplace websites worked better than they had for the initial enrollment period, according to the majority of brokers.
Although Kaiser had conducted follow-up research of health marketplace assisters and navigators after the initial open enrollment period, its survey of the second enrollment season marked the first time that health insurance brokers were polled.
However, the National Association of Health Underwriters conducted its own poll of its members on their experiences in the first open enrollment season. Those findings were included in the article The Return of the Health Advisor in InsuranceNewsNet Magazine.
Brokers told Kaiser they were doing less community outreach regarding the ACA than did navigators and assisters, but they also reported more client continuity from first year to the second than did navigators and assisters. Kaiser said this indicates that brokers may be establishing more ongoing relationships with their clients than navigators or assisters have been able to do so far.
The exchange marketplace wasn’t the only place where brokers sold health coverage. More than three-quarters of brokers surveyed said they sold policies outside the marketplace as well.
On average, brokers reported helping an average of about 140 consumers, both in and outside of the marketplace, with eligibility and enrollment during the second open enrollment period. On average, brokers helped almost twice as many clients apply for coverage through the marketplace compared to outside of the marketplace.
But some brokers were busier than others. Sixty percent said they helped up to 50 marketplace consumers during the last open enrollment period, while 20 percent of brokers said they helped more than 100. Brokers who sold in the first open enrollment period as well as the second said they helped an average of 8 percent fewer consumers in the second year than they did in the first year.
Most brokers said, on average it took between one and two hours to help each client who was applying for marketplace coverage for the first time. For clients who were renewing or changing their coverage, brokers said it took about an hour to assist each one.
Kaiser’s researchers concluded that brokers and navigators are not interchangeable when it comes to enrolling people in coverage. “To ensure that all consumers who need help receive it, both types of professionals will need to continue their key roles,” the report said.
Susan Rupe is managing editor for InsuranceNewsNet. She formerly served as communications director for an insurance agents' association and was an award-winning newspaper reporter and editor. Contact her at Susan.Rupe@innfeedback.com.
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