NAHU urges Obama to improve HealthCare.gov for producers

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Insurance producers are angry. Nearly 70,000 of them went through the certification process to sell health insurance through HealthCare.gov, and despite repeated promises that fixes to the glitch-prone website will be resolved, issues remain.

On behalf of those struggling agents and brokers, the National Association of Health Underwriters urged President Barack Obama in a letter last week to make additional fixes a priority and help producers complete client applications.

“We want to make it clear that a number of back-end technical obstacles still exist for health insurance agents and brokers trying to actively support the federal marketplace,” NAHU CEO Janet Trautwein told the Associated Press.

Echoing those sentiments, Deborah Wilkinson of URL Insurance’s health plan options division warned producers that they’re “not out of the woods yet.”

“If you ask about problems that still exist, I’d say kick back and put your feet up because there are many,” she said.

Wilkinson stressed that producers are still having issues getting credit for sales of health exchange plans, despite inputting their national producer IDs—a problem Texas-based agent Kelly Fristoe has experienced firsthand.

Fristoe said he has been working around the clock to enroll new clients by the Dec. 23 deadline, but with limited success. After managing to enroll a family of six through HealthCare.gov, Fristoe said he was dismayed to discover he had not received credit for his time.

“Apparently I’m not tagged on to that consumer as their agent,” he said. “I’m not able to see them as enrolling in the system.”

Fristoe said he would have to go back and get an agent of record letter in order to get credit for the sale. It’s a process many producers have had to go through, and one that Ohio-based agent Joey Giangola said “scared me half to death.”

Wilkinson, Fristoe and Giangola all said that carriers participating in the health exchange have been very good about getting the required agent of record letters to solve the problem, but that it cuts into time they would otherwise spend servicing new clients.

Producers have also encountered issues trying to help individuals who have already begun the enrollment process by the time they seek help, or who wish to make changes to previously completed portions of the application.

“The worst part is the amount of time it’s taken to fix applications,” Giangola said. “If you answer just one question wrong, the system breaks itself and you have to clear the whole application and start over again.”

As of Nov. 22, roughly 16 insurers and producers in Florida, Texas and Ohio are participating in a pilot program allowing agents to enroll clients directly. However, federal officials have been vague about when and where the program will be expanded.

If the issues are not resolved, NAHU said producers fear their efforts won’t be enough to offset the cut in commissions created under the Affordable Care Act.

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