Unless you’ve been living under a rock you are probably aware of the “issues” surrounding the rollout of the Affordable Care Act. My agency BoiseInsure.net (http://www.BoiseInsure.net) has been writing Property and Casualty, Life, and Health Insurance in the State of Idaho since 2005 so I want to impress upon you the idea that we’re not exactly “new” or inexperienced in this industry. Right away the first irony of the implementation of this program was the fact that the US Government and the Centers For Medicare and Medicaid required all of us licensed Insurance brokers and agents to undergo “training” before we could be considered eligible to offer to assist insurance shoppers on the new exchange. It’s of course laughable that somehow when they reduce the number of available plans through all the same carriers I have been writing health insurance through for the past 8 years, that maybe I won’t know what I’m doing. Then to follow it that, once we have our certification there are an endless string of webinars and emails we have to endure to make sure we fully understand how it will all work.
The pièce de résistance came when, after all this preparation, registration, and brew-ha-ha we discovered that the state had virtually taken the agents out of the process. Oh sure if you call the Your Health Idaho information line, at some point if you ask too many questions they will refer you to talk to a broker who REALLY knows what he/she is doing; however they overlooked one small element…they didn’t give the agents any way to write a policy on your behalf! If you go to the web site to research policy options, or to see if you are eligible for a tax rebate or subsidy depending on your income, at such time as you wish to submit an application for coverage the site forwards you to the site: http://www.healthcare.gov at which point you are free to fend for yourself trying to get the site to work. And as we know…nearly 2 months into its rollout (end of November 2013) the site wasn’t fully functional and still had problems with losing people’s personal information, deleting their applications, and getting hacked by outsiders! But to make matters worse, if you come in and seek the assistance of a qualified professional like myself, when you are ready to submit for coverage the best I can do is to hand you a paper application like it’s 1959 and you can snail mail that to Kentucky and wait for them to respond.
“But wait” you say, “I thought all the web site stuff was fixed now?” That’s only partially true. While the site itself has begun to function more correctly than ever in the past 10 weeks, it still doesn’t allow the agent to submit an application for you! In Idaho that leaves you with only two prospects, first either fill out a paper application and send it by snail-mail and then wait, or you can call a live individual and have them take a verbal application by phone. Now my personal story was such that I began trying to use the web site on October 1st 2013 and it said I hadn’t answered my security questions properly. (ridiculous since I’ve never owned “pet health insurance” as the site insinuated and that’s a fact!) Then I had to make 2 different calls to Experian to prove who I am, and was told within 15 minutes the site would update and allow me to move forward. Nope that didn’t work either. Then I was told I needed to upload a copy of my birth certificate which I did, and when that didn’t work I uploaded a scan of my social security card, which didn’t work either. Lastly in exasperation I mailed a scanned image of my driver’s license photo ID to the Kentucky processing center. That never worked either. Finally in exasperation I filed an application on the phone with a live agent (because…you know, I can’t do my own any other way, even as an Insurance agent) and effectively was able to choose a policy.
I received a lot of flack for referring to the Affordable Care Act as a “job killer” back in 2011. I used to count on approximately 1/3 of my monthly income coming from health insurance clients I had helped in the past. As we neared the date of implementation of the Affordable Care Act all the insurance carriers in my state slowly and methodically slashed the commissions of Health Insurance agents. So my income from that source was decimated. Now I cannot hire people to help me for the roll-out of Obamacare. In fact I’ll be lucky to stay in-the-black financially in 2014. Then going back to my original thought, after all is said and done, the large majority of American’s can’t figure out how to make the web site work, whether they are being cancelled by their insurance companies or will get to keep their current plan, or whether (to be in compliance) they will end up paying hundred’s more per month to give young uninsured’s and those on limited incomes some coverage. All the while I am left trying, at great pains, to tell people HOW to list me on their application on the www.healthcare.gov web site. At some point in the application it asks if you are receiving assistance from a trained Broker or Agent, if you say yes it will ask you to give them the information in the following screenprint:
If you need help with your application, after much trial and tribulation I have figured out how to do it for ME and am certain I can do it for YOU finally. I can educate you about the products available, how they work, and how you can potentially be eligible for subsidies in the way of tax credits or real-time premium offsets. Please list me as your agent and call me with questions. The BosieInsure Agency is here to serve. Please let me know what we can do to assist you.
Mark Nielebeck – BoiseInsure.net, LLC Principal
Phone: (208) 340-2200
Fax: (866) 316-1232