In last week’s post, I discussed the reporting requirements imposed on employers by the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”), commonly known as Obamacare, which requirements are effective for 2015. Informing or reminding an agency’s commercial lines customers who may be subject to those reporting requirements is one way that an agency can use Obamacare to its advantage, regardless of how its owners may feel about it. Assisting such customers in determining how they will comply with those requirements and suggesting possible solutions for the handling the complexity created by them should go a long way in showing those customers how dedicated an agency is to providing added value services and becoming a trusted advisor for its customers. Along these lines, the IRS has just created a webpage devoted to the 2015 filing requirements. It has links to the final versions of the forms that will be used to satisfy those requirements, as well as other pertinent information.
For those agencies that offer health insurance coverage, a recent study by AFLAC found that there is a growing market for voluntary coverages that plug the gaps created by the health insurance policies that are available to individuals on the federal and state exchanges created under the ACA. Sixty-four percent of the employees surveyed recognized the need for other coverages beyond what they could get from their employer or the exchanges. In addition to selling voluntary coverages, almost 60% of the brokers surveyed were working as navigators and/or producers for insurance coverages provided through the exchanges and those brokers reported on average that 35% of their total revenues were directly related to their exchange activities.
While initially the environment for insurance agents and brokers who wanted to engage in exchange related activities was not particularly welcoming, that is beginning to change as the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight (“CCIIO”) has recently announced that it will create a hotline dedicated to answering “general questions” related to the federal exchanges. No date has been set for when the hotline will be created, but as B. Ronnell Nolan, president and CEO of the lobbying group Health Agents for America, recently stated, it is a step in the right direction towards leveling the playing field for insurance agents and brokers (click here for a recent article on the hotline and related topics).
Another step in the right direction occurred when the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which oversees the CCIIO, announced in August that it would partner with three organizations, the National Association of Health Underwriters, America’s Health Insurance Plans, and Gorman Health, to offer agent and broker training for the federal exchanges. This will allow agents who choose to undergo the training required to participate directly in those exchanges to receive continuing education credit for doing so. While agents must still begin the process on the CMS website to verify their identity, they will then have the option to receive the required training through the government website or go to one of the three outside vendors for the training. There will be a cost associated with the training offered by the outside vendors, but that cost will be comparable to what an agent would have to pay for other continuing education courses. (Click here for a recent article on this subject.) For those who would prefer not to have to pay for the training, there is one training session left this month, on September 25 at 1 p.m. EDT. (Click here for registration information.)