Benefits brokers can join the health insurance exchange outreach team, if they "take off their insurance broker hats" while pounding the pavement or staffing exchange education tables.
Jessica Barba Brown, an Enroll America rep, talked about how insurance agents and brokers can get involved.
Enroll America is helping the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act exchanges reach out to uninsured consumers. The organization says it now has about 130 staff members and about 3,000 volunteers on its team.
Insurance agents and brokers who simply want to support the exchanges, or are in states in which the exchanges have not yet completed work on the exchange broker certification process, can volunteer for Enroll America by going to GetCoveredAmerica.org, Barba Brown said.
While getting trained and volunteering in the field, "they cannot promote any specific insurance plans or products," Barba Brown said. "They are not allowed to give advice on which plans to choose or specifics about any financial help that may be available."
Agents and brokers need to check with the carriers they represent and with their state regulators to see if any company rules or legal compliance considerations would affect their ability to serve as Enroll America volunteers, but the organization itself is not aware of any regulatory barriers that would get in the way of producers who want to help tell consumers about the exchange program, Barba Brown said.
Enroll America has its own training requirements and program rules, such as a requirement volunteers not promote specific plans or products.
But the Enroll America volunteers are simply telling people about the exchanges, not helping people use the exchange system, and they do not have be certified as navigators or certified application counselors, Barba Brown said.
Barba Brown said Enroll America does not ask volunteers about their day jobs and is not sure whether any are insurance brokers or insurance company employees.
"Anecdotally, we haven’t seen any special participation or lack thereof from the industry," Barba Brown said.
Many benefits brokers see the exchanges as competition, and many have predicted PPACA will slash the supply of health insurance and health care and increase the cost. But others say they hope the exchange system and PPACA rules will work.
Dan Umansky is an Illinois broker who has several clients with children with autism.
PPACA already requires health insurers to cover children on a guaranteed-issue basis, but the law now says nothing about the cost of the coverage. On Jan. 1, PPACA will require insurers to set rates for individual coverage without taking people's health into account.
The parents of Illinois children with autism pay 800 percent of the normal price for coverage for those children, Umansky said.
"If more people understood how impossible or expensive it has been for individuals with any kind of preexisting condition to get coverage, they might not be so critical of Obamacare," Umansky said. "October can't arrive soon enough."
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