Imagine if your employer gave you a gold star to display on your work but refused to pay you for your efforts.
That’s the situation faced by health insurance agents who are enrolling consumers in coverage under the federal marketplace. Carriers are slashing commissions – in some cases not paying commissions at all.
Now the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is offering health insurance brokers who enroll 20 or more individual consumers or 20 or more employers through the marketplace the opportunity for a “gold star” in the form of membership in the Healthcare.gov Circle of Champions.
“As part of your membership, you will receive a HealthCare.gov toolkit, including a special certificate, a ‘badge’ you can use on emails and your website to showcase your enrollment expertise, and a press release that you can personalize and use with your local media,” according to information sent by CMS to health insurance brokers.
Not everyone is happy about the opportunity to be a “champion.” Ronnell Nolan, president/CEO of Health Agents for America, described the program as “let’s throw ‘em a bone but not pay any money.”
“It’s supposed to be an incentive for agents but considering they’re not getting paid and can’t help the clients because the coverage is not affordable, it’s hard to incentivize our members when they’re not making money,” she said.
HAFA members had a conference call with CMS officials recently, and the topic of disappearing agent commissions was raised.
The answer from CMS is that agents need to be appointed with every carrier in order to be paid, Nolan said. “But the law doesn’t require insurance companies to appoint agents and nothing requires them to pay us a fair commission.”
The most recent communication between the agents’ group and CMS is another example of what Nolan called “a huge disconnect between agents and brokers and the marketplace/CMS.”
HAFA’s Legislative Team plans to address carriers throughout the country to find out what changes they feel are necessary provide a fair compensation program to agents and brokers.
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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