Agent groups back exchange access bills

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La. (AP photo/J. Scott Applewhite) Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La. (AP photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

A Senate Democrat is trying to get Health and Human Services to warm up to the agents and brokers still trying to work with the public exchange system.

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., has included two agent access bills in a package of Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act improvement bills she’s introducing.

One bill, the Enhancing Access for Agents and Brokers Act, would create a dedicated telephone hotline for broker enrollment and policy questions; require HHS to post a director of exchange certified agents on the HealthCare.gov; and fix an agent identification issue that’s plagued exchange agents for more than six months.

The bill also would let enrollees add agents’ names and national producer numbers to their applications at any point during the enrollment process without having to start the process over, to ensure producers get paid for the work they’ve done helping the enrollees.

The bill would also require HHS to tell agents about any policy changes that affect the commercial qualified health plans sold through the exchanges or exchange enrollment within five days.

B. Ronnell Nolan, president of Health Agents for America, has noted for months that HHS and its divisions publish a weekly newsletter for navigators but don’t make that newsletter or a similar newsletter available for agents and brokers.

Another agent-oriented bill, the Consumers Having Options in Choosing Enrollment Act bill, would give independent agents the ability to enroll consumers in plans by using commercial “Web-based entities,” rather than by connecting with the glitch-plagued HealthCare.gov system.

At press time, the agent-oriented bills did not have bill numbers.

Other bills in the Landrieu PPACA package would restore startup funding for CO-OP plans; encourage state regulators to help insurers sell health coverage across state lines; expand access to Small Business Health Care Tax Credits; exempt business with up to 99 employees from the employer mandate; change PPACA business health coverage reporting rules; and count family members working for the same business and on the same employer health plan as one full-time equivalent employee for the purposes of PPACA FTE counting.

The he National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors and the National Association of Health Underwriters put out press releases welcoming the CHOICE Act and Enhancing Access for Agents and Brokers Act bills.

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