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By Sara Hansard
Dec. 16 --State insurance regulators Dec. 16 called for the Department of Health and Human Services to allow them to make public the names of brokers and assistants who have been certified to work with people enrolling for coverage through the health insurance marketplaces.
At the fall meeting of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), Martin Swanson, counsel to the Nebraska Department of Insurance, said that although the HHS has sent out a list of brokers and “navigators” who are certified to help people enroll in the marketplaces, the department specified that the list isn't to be made public. Swanson and other members of the NAIC's Health Care Reform Regulatory Alternatives Working Group called for working with the HHS to make the list public. The group is part of the Health Insurance and Managed Care Committee.
The Nebraska insurance agency wanted to publish the list of certified brokers and navigators, but “we were not able to release those names,” Swanson said, adding, “It makes perfectly good consumer sense to have that list published.”
An NAIC official said the HHS cited a privacy restriction as its reason for specifying that the broker information not be made public. However, Christina Goe, general counsel of the Montana Office of the Commissioner of Securities and Insurance, said the provision appeared to be more applicable to consumers than to brokers who work with consumers.
Representatives of eight states met with Gary Cohen, director of the HHS's Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, about the issue Dec. 16, Joshua Goldberg, health policy and legislative adviser to the NAIC, said.
Wesley Bissett, representing the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America Inc., asked the NAIC to write the HHS requesting that the names of agents and brokers certified to work with people in the marketplaces be made public. “We think it's important to have the names of navigators, agents, CACs [certified application counselors], made available, especially in rural states where there's a real challenge to find people who are able to help consumers enroll in health plans right now,” he said.
Meanwhile, on Dec. 14, Julie Bataille, director of communications at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, said in a blog posting that the HHS is concentrating on addressing issues with the “back end” parts of the HealthCare.gov federal marketplace website. It is focusing on the accuracy of the “834” transaction forms processed by health plans when consumers enroll through the marketplace.
“Our priority is working to make sure that every 834 form--past and present--is accurate, and that consumers are able to successfully enroll in the coverage of their choice,” Bataille said.
Between Oct. 1 and Dec. 5, the number of consumers for whom 834s weren't produced “was fewer than 15,000,” Bataille said. But since the beginning of December, missing 834s as a percentage of total enrollments “has been close to zero,” she said.
Most of the problems with the 834s occurred between Oct. 1 and the “first few weeks of November,” when some of the transactions weren't generated or had errors, she said. “For most marketplace consumers, 834 creation or accuracy has not been an issue.”
The HHS is assisting health plans in dealing with the inaccuracies, and it is contacting every consumer who has selected a plan through the federal marketplace to remind them to pay their premium and connect with their insurer, Bataille said. “This week we securely sent data files to 300 issuers participating in the federal marketplace--and we're reconciling 834s with the issuers,” she said.
Every issuer's health plan in the federal marketplace now has CMS files for the consumers who enrolled, or tried to enroll, in their respective plans through early December, Bataille said. After Dec. 23, issuers will receive new files, she said.
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