Brokers cram for exchange testNews added by Benefits Pro on September 26, 2013

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Joined: September 07, 2011

My Company

By Allison Bell

With the scheduled launch of the public exchanges less than a week away, brokers are still trying to understand how well the exchanges will promote themselves, what they’ll sell, and where the professionals fit in.

Congressional Republicans were still using budget bill maneuvers to block the start of exchanges as recently as Tuesday. But in New York City, a market served by a well-funded state-based Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act exchange, carriers are already running ads promoting the exchange.

EmblemHealth, for example, is running a full-page health trivia quiz in free “shopper” newspapers to promote its ability to answer health reform questions.

In Jersey City, a market with a Republican governor and a fedeal, the local paper is just promising a PPACA guide will run Oct. 5, four days after enrollment starts.

Either way, brokers still have questions, too.

Just this week, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services finally started to outline what coverage might cost in the states where it’s running things, and, at press time, it still hadn’t published a list of actual federal exchange menus.

EHealth Inc., one of the companies acting as a Web broker for the federal exchanges, is trying to set itself apart from its competitors by getting its enrollment information into the Intuit personal and small business tax preparation systems.

Meanwhile, individual producers are making decisions about how deeply to get involved with the exchanges.

Rod Humphrey Jr., a broker in Spring Mills, Pa., a federal exchange market, said he believes he’s collected more than two dozen federal exchange training certificates.

Humphrey hasn’t experienced the legendary certification system crashes, but he said the modules covering topics such as eligibility for medical assistance were much more complicated than he’d expected.

Exchanges are supposed to offer consumers access to independent “navigators,” or ombudsmen, who will go through a similar training program.

Navigator training is supposed to consist of 26 two-hour modules.

“I think they base that time frame on licensed agents who know the basics even before they start the course, not someone who has no knowledge of how the industry in general works,” Humphrey said.

Humphrey said he’s still working with regulators to find out, for example, if he can have non-commissioned, in-person assistants in his office to answer general questions about the exchanges, in case he gets a flood of consumer calls.

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