Brokers ride to rescue in Maryland

Baltimore (EPA photo) Baltimore (EPA photo)

Brokers are trying to help the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange Board overcome enrollment website problems.

The board has officially pushed back the launch of a Small Business Health Options Program exchange enrollment website until Jan. 1, and the SHOP won’t be open at all until April 1.

From April 1 through Dec. 31, Maryland employers who want SHOP plans will have to talk either to the carriers who issue the plans – or to brokers.

Meanwhile, over on the individual exchange side, broker groups are setting up a toll-free hotline to rescue consumers who have no luck using the state’s Maryland Health Connection enrollment website.

The Maryland exchange board talked about broker relations Monday at a meeting.

The state-based exchange has received “qualified health plan” selection information for just 25,177 people.

QHP selection volume increased to 2,665 for the week ending Jan. 18, up from 2,154 the previous week.

But the exchange website has had technical problems, and the exchange call center has had trouble stepping in to compensate.

The average daily call volume has increased to 3,330 this month, from 1,430 in October.

Even though the exchange added 40 customer service representatives in December and 126 reps Jan. 6, the reps are taking an average of 35 minutes to answer calls.

About 57 percent of the time, consumers who call hang up before speaking to a rep.

The National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors, the Maryland Association of Health Underwriters and the Insurance Agents & Brokers Service Group have created a team of 55 licensed producers to help the individual exchange users.

Consumers can get broker referrals by calling 877-304-9934.

The producers who take the calls are authorized to sell QHPs.

The exchange board has thought about connecting the Maryland Health Connection website to the websites of Web-based brokers, but, for now, the Maryland site is working too poorly to do so, officials said.

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