Last week, the Obama administration announced in a conference call that there would be another delay in their healthcare system overhaul – the launch of the online SHOP exchange will be delayed for an entire year. This comes after a disastrous rolling out of the Federal Marketplace in 36 states and is just one more in a long line of delays, problems, issues and glitches.
The bright spot for all of us in this particular announcement was Press Secretary, Jay Carney, recommending that employers seek the assistance of agents and brokers to enroll in plans to be eligible for the 2014 tax credit. For the first time, the administration appears to have discovered that there is a group of professionals that already exist who are educated, trained and experienced in, among other things, searching the insurance marketplace for appropriate and competitive coverage with all available carriers for their employer clients and is now publicly promoting their use.
In fact, the independent agent has been doing this for years and given the choice, the majority of employers choose that expertise over the federal government website any day of the week – especially when the access to plans and their costs are the same either way.
After the announcement, National Association of Health Underwriters CEO Janet Trautwein weighed in almost immediately, saying in a statement that: “By going through an agent, small business owners have the advantage of the experience and advocacy of a professionally licensed health insurance advisor. Not only are agents able to help small business owners find a plan that fits the healthcare needs of their employees and the financial needs of their business, but agents also offer a litany of consumer protections to their clients. Agents are required to complete continuing education courses through their state department of insurance in order to keep their license, and they go through additional certification training to be able to sell exchange policies. Long after a policy is sold, agents continue to administer plans by working directly with carries to resolve any billing and coverage issues that might arise. They also have professional liability insurance, have been proven to decrease insurance fraud, and improve claims processing efficiency and coverage stability.”
I will be the first to admit that there is a fairly large difference in the value proposition that each agent and agency system provides to their employer clients, however, the decision between agents pales in comparison to an employer choosing to work directly with the Federal Marketplace without professional assistance. The likely frustration an employer – and their employees – will experience before, during and after the purchase without a team of professionals to assist them with billing, claims and network issues is reason enough to consider an agent.