Bad Idea To Require Clients' SSN To Connect Them To Insurance Agent

Health Insurance Agents

During the last open enrollment season, while working on the healthcare exchanges, many health insurance agents experienced the frustration of having their National Producer Numbers (NPN) and Federally Facilitated Marketplace Identification Numbers (FFM ID) deleted from their clients applications.

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The process of reconnecting the health insurance agent with their clients' application was a difficult one though not impossible. Most companies only required the clients name, telephone number, address and date of birth. There was one company that required the clients Social Security Number (SSN).

I don’t know if it’s just me as an agent but I never store the full social security number of a client unless it’s absolutely necessary. In the past when most companies used paper applications that were faxed to the company the SSN was retained because it was on the paper application, which we were required to keep. Another instant where the full SSN may be retained is when a PDF copy of the application is generated during the electronic application process. In many cases today the SSN is encrypted once the application is submitted and only the last four numbers appear.

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Why do I have a problem with keeping and sending the SSN to the company? Number one it is the method that we have to use to send the form back to our General Agent. We submit the form to our General Agent (GA) via email in an excel spreadsheet. They do not have a secure way for us to return the spreadsheet to them once we have added the clients full SSN to the form. Many health insurance companies use secure email such as Zixcorp where you need to have account with a password in order to open an email. To me this step should be mandatory for all General Agents and Carriers who request sensitive personal information to be sent to them via email. This is important because if this information gets in the wrong hands the agent who sent the information would be on the hook for mishandling the clients personal information. So I see it as a big liability issue.

On the exchange, when the application summary is generated at the end of the application process, it only contains the last four digits if the clients SSN. So if this was the only record the agent retained they still would not have all of the required information to reconnect them with their client. The Maryland Health Connection instead of requesting the SSN number did request the clients policy number which was also a challenge to get.

What’s the solution to this problem? Instead of requesting the clients full SSN the carrier could request only the last four numbers. A better solution would be to provide their agents with an agent broker portal where they can have access to their book of business and monitor the status of their cases. It’s not an impossible task because there are some companies who are successfully doing this even with business written on the exchange.

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The exchanges could also create a separate agent broker portals that we can access by creating an account, which stores all clients that are attached to our NPN and FFM ID. They should also give us access to our clients information. This would save time and provide proof that the health insurance agent actually worked with the client. It would also put an end to all of the third party run around that we experienced as agents this past year.

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