Health exchange calls on producers to help meet enrollment deadline

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California is currently buried under more than 20,000 incomplete paper applications for health insurance through the Golden State’s online marketplace, Covered California. Thanks to initial website glitches when the exchange opened Oct. 1, government officials directed certified producers to submit 32-page paper forms for clients.

Now, however, the Dec. 23 deadline is just around the corner and tens of thousands of the applications still need to be entered into the online system. The solution? Covered California believes it is asking the California Association of Health Underwriters for help inputting the information into computers.

While Sam Smith, president of CAHU, said its certified agents were “fully committed to work with Covered California to resolve this crisis,” other producers feel daunted by the last-minute scramble.

“It currently takes over 90 minutes to enter the information from the application due to the slow exchange system,” said Bruce Benton of Genesis Financial & Insurance Services in Sherman Oaks, Calif. “To have to go back at this late date and key in the data from paper applications I have already submitted to Covered California is extremely challenging and will take several days to process.”

Benton said he is already working until midnight most nights just to keep up with the demand.

Elsewhere in the country, producers are equally committed to getting their clients enrolled in healthcare plans, though they’re starting to feel the strain.

In Anchorage, Alaska, producers with Northrim Benefits Group are working “seven days a week, around the clock to get everyone enrolled,” said Tyann Boling, COO of Northrim’s Enroll Alaska program.

Boling said the process has been difficult thanks to website glitches with, the federal exchange site. At the end of October, Enroll Alaska temporarily suspended its enrollment process until it could be sure the site was fully functional.

Now, Boling said has significantly improved, though “it’s definitely not functioning 100%.”

Continued issues with exchange sites have also affected Kelly Fristoe, a Texas-based producer who fears still won’t be able to facilitate all of his clients by the looming deadline.

“Am I seeing some successes? Yes, but they are far and few between,” Fristoe said. “They’re not what they need to be with Dec. 23 right around the corner.”

In order to ensure clients are fully covered by the Jan. 1 start date, producers need to enroll clients by Dec. 23 and submit premium payments by Dec. 31. It’s a daunting task, but producers say they are committed to their clients and willing to put in the extra work.

“This is going to push agents to the wall, but we are all in this together and we want to find the best possible solutions to work it through to best serve our clients,” said Patrick Burns, an Oakland-based producer. “Our business and that of all other agents…helps individual healthcare consumers, their families and businesses seeking coverage for their workers.”
  • Ken Kunes on 12/9/2013 10:18:39 AM

    Obama and every senator/representative who
    voted for this ill prepared law should sit in their office completing apps for the folks.They voted to put us out of business and hang us and now they want us to furnish the rope.
    want us to furnish the rope.

  • Charles in Charge on 12/9/2013 11:00:57 AM

    So, what are all the newly hired navigators doing??? Standing around with their thumbs up their butts and collecting a big fat paycheck from the taxpayers? Obama has screwed the pooch on this one, big time. This is an absolute travesty and the best example of incompetence I have ever seen...

  • Irene Vigil on 12/9/2013 11:02:58 AM

    unbelievable. My 20+ years of clients all on the chopping block not sure where to turn. My head is spinning. zillions of web sites promise help, is elusive.

  • gail hillerlee on 12/9/2013 11:10:12 AM

    For years, we have showed up at HHS open forums, participated in webinars and completely given up our business in order to assist the HHS and our local State agencies in getting this right.
    They have had little interest in our advice and thought it best to bow out of conversations dealing with commission, letting the carriers manage our worth to the public. Our gov't threw us under the bus and into the MLR - never considering they would need us in the future.
    We explained that EVERYTHING isn't "essential" - we told them that this is a bandaid to the problem of an unhealthy America - we explained the unintended consequences PRIOR to the issues and NOW THEY NEED US????
    We are still waiting for them to make the first move and take us OUT of the MLR - add cat. coverage for out of area dep's - include spouses for subsidies if families can't afford group coverage - mandate a POS plan for individuals IF they choose to pay - encourage HDHP's and hold onto incentives under FSA's and a HOST OF OTHER ISSUES THEY CHOSE TO IGNORE.
    Maybe WE should hold out.....maybe WE should put the papers down and close our businesses to the Exchanges....but's not in our moral interest.
    So tired of the mess this has become.

  • Terry Welty on 12/9/2013 12:39:45 PM

    I wish Romney had given the public a little more than, "We don't like it and we'll overturn it, if we get elected." I knew it was going to be a "Wagon Train Ride to Hell". He should have given more details on why the act was so flawed.

  • B Scales on 12/9/2013 12:48:15 PM

    Yes, there are big problems. I have never seen anything implemented this large without some problems. If you agree that everyone should have health coverage, lets stop contributing to the problems by complaining and work on finding solutions.

  • gail hillerlee on 12/9/2013 1:26:08 PM

    I completely agree - everyone needs healthcare, but that doesn't mean I give up my personal opinion on how this was implemented, right?
    To accept and agree doesn't help anyone either. There is room for modification if only they were willing to listen.
    Every broker I know assists every caller that comes in - no commission -nothing, but the public needs people that understand the options and they NEED brokers to guide them - with or without payment for time. Image a law firm with the same attitude being governed by the same MLR-type of scrutiny.

    To say that this was done correctly is a lie. To say that the public understands how things work is denying the obvious.

    Quick story - Enroll America had a national webinar where someone on it names who people trust to get their health insurance advice and the speaker listed us last as stating, "and can you believe it....some people actually trust their BROKER?".

    If you can't see why we're frustrated, you just don't know what we do.

    I'm not getting into a word war.....just wanted to share my opinion. Thanks

  • Robert Fowler on 12/9/2013 8:52:35 AM

    Are you serious, "we are all in this together"? In what, these people are trying to put you out of business, and you're helping them.

  • JJ SMITH on 12/9/2013 9:18:31 AM

    Fly Obama and every senator/representative that voted for thing out to CA and have them imput the data! Seriously? Why should the producers who have already done the apps once have to them again? Maybe Obama can railroad through an extension for this too.

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