Some brokers still not paid on ACA exchanges

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Will Heavin is a Texas-based broker who enrolled about 700 people on the Affordable Care Act’s public marketplace in 2014. But you wouldn’t know that from carrier databases, where Heavin says he’s not listed as an agent on as much as 40% to 45% of the accounts for his consumer clients.

Yes, that means he won’t be paid on about 315 applications he helped facilitate.

“It’s disappointing — the communication between and the insurance companies is where the failure took place,” says the owner of Heavin & Associates in Corpus Christi, explaining that it seems broker names were dropped in the batching process to the Texas carriers on the state’s federally run marketplace.

But in his mind, there’s a bigger problem than not getting commission checks — he can’t service those 315 people without his name attached to their information in the carriers’ logs.

“If they need an identification card, if they change their income, we’re not the agent of record … so we can’t go in” and make those changes for them, he says. Heavin and his team have sent spreadsheets to the carriers to show evidence of their relationship with certain clients in order to gain agent-of-record status in the system, but the carriers are “moving at a snail’s pace,” he says.

One carrier that Heavin mentioned, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas, did not return a request for comment on this matter by publication time.

See related: Broker ACA sales tallies in question

Across the country in Connecticut, where AccessHealthCT is the name of the state-run marketplace, broker Jennifer Lovett was initially very concerned around January that she wouldn’t get paid for many exchange commissions. Those payments mean a great deal to her bottom line, since she’s restructured her entire business to enroll consumers on the exchange. However, she now says she’s been paid on almost all applications she and her staff submitted to the state’s three carriers.

“The carriers actually made good on everything,” says the owner of Crystal Financial Insurance Services in South Windsor, Conn. “Things they didn’t pay on before, they back-dated and paid us on. They’ve been good getting caught up and been good to work with. The marketing reps that I’ve had with all the carriers” have been intrinsic to getting paid and very helpful.

The three-part handshake

Lovett says she is aware of some brokers who do not have the same good story she does when it comes to getting paid on all applications. The reason, she thinks, brokers fell behind getting paid in some cases is because they didn’t pay close attention to what Connecticut is calling the “three-part handshake.” This refers the process of setting up a relationship on the exchange between a consumer and a broker. A consumer, within their own Web portal, invites a broker to be their agent of record. The broker then has to log in to their own portal and click accept, and for the last part the consumer has to log back on and authorize the broker. Lovett notes that brokers need to really coach their consumer clients to get through all these steps so that the broker can both receive commissions and continue to service them for years to come.

“The brokers who aren’t getting paid, this process is the reason why,” she says. “There’s a reason for the process too: It’s privacy.”

Some brokers, perhaps those who worked primarily in group benefits prior to the ACA’s creation of the exchanges, may not be used to having to service consumers with hand-holding every step of the way, Lovett says. She adds that because she did Medicare enrollments in the past, she’s accustomed to dealing with confused clients, following up with them to make sure they’re paying their bills and checking in with them to ensure they didn’t receive any requests for additional information from carriers that would deter their coverage.

See related: Leading carrier tops broker frustrations in final lap of ACA enrollment

Other problems

Not all broker commission issues, however, may be attributed to a lack of attention to detail on the part of some brokers.

Earlier this week The Washington Post reported that broker commissions on the D.C. state-run exchange, called D.C. Health Link, “have been an issue for months,” noting that the exchange’s director, Mila Kofman, had acknowledged it as a “big problem.” While the exact number of unpaid brokers is unclear, one Virginia-based broker told the Post he’s owed “thousands” in commissions.

The D.C. exchange is the one marketplace that the National Association of Health Underwriters’ national office has helped directly with broker training and to provide a voice to brokers. Janet Trautwein, the group’s CEO, told the Post that she still believes D.C. is one of the more broker-friendly public exchanges, despite the commission problems.

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