A big proportion of health insurance brokers and agents are unwilling to sit on the sidelines when the public exchanges go live. They instead want to help sell (and explain) coverage through them.

A new survey of 600 health agents from the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors found that 56 percent expect to sell exchange plans this fall under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

About 54 percent of the NAIFA health agent members who participated in the survey live in states where the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is running the exchange program.

In those states, 50 percent of the brokers and agents who want to sell exchange plans already have gone through the CMS exchange agent training program, NAIFA found.

Another 29 percent said they plan to take the CMS exchange agent training soon.

John Nichols, NAIFA’s president-elect, said in a statement that the group’s members are getting trained so that they can continue to serve their clients.

“While the thousands of navigators hired will help consumers enroll for plans through the marketplace, consumers and businesses will require assistance that goes far beyond registering for a plan,” he said. 

In the states with state-run exchanges, about 59 percent of agents expect to sell exchange plans.

NAIFA noted that 44 percent of brokers and agents are reaching out in their communities, beyond their existing client base, to assist consumers with questions about health insurance and PPACA.

Some reported providing briefings at town hall meetings, while others are visiting senior centers, churches and other community centers.

About 10 percent said they expect hospitals, pharmacies, doctors and other health care providers to send confused consumers and business owners their way.

In Missouri, for example, one hospital system has formally agreed to refer patients who need help understanding the exchange program to NAIFA members, the group says.

When consumers buy individual coverage through an exchange, the exchange plan issuers “should immediately assign consumers an agent,” Nichols said.

Consumers need service throughout the year, not just when they buy a policy, Nichols said.

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