Do Health Insurance Companies Really Care About Their Agents?
This is a question I have asked myself many times since I became ACA certified back in the fall of 2013. Since last year was filled with so much confusion I will give all of the companies a pass on the chaos from last year. My opinion is based solely on my experience from this year. While I have not provided the names of the companies the following accounts will give you an overview of what to expect from a wide range of health insurance companies.
Some companies really seem to value their agents and broker and really seem to respect our time. There was one company that I began working with this year half way through the Open Enrollment Period. They promised they would give us leads to work with. They promised that they would sponsor events that we could attend to help with enrollments. They promised great agent broker support. There was no pressure to sign up our clients with their company so many other companies benefited unknowingly from these events. They delivered on everything 100%. They also had locations where they assigned us to work during the week on a regular basis according to our schedules. We have a dedicated agent broker line which eliminates having to wait on hold for hours wasting time on the consumer Member Services Line. We also have an agent broker portal that displays all of our business whether it's Exchange or Direct business. We get to see the account status, and all other important details we need to work effectively with our clients. They are really in the 21st century. The customer service for my clients has been great and most issues were resolved in 5 minutes or less.
Company number two also has a dedicated agent broker phone line. Agents can also see all of their business both on and off the Exchange in their online agent broker portals. Communication with this company has been good. I did not have any enrollment issues with them.
Company number three does have an agent broker phone number but the way I got it was not an easy task. I had a very difficult case last year. This company for some reason will not deal directly with agents and forces us to use a GA (General Agent). My GA got tired of the back and forth so they finally gave me the phone number for the agent broker phone line so I could explain the issue them directly. That's how I got the number. Having this number has improved my point of view of the company. I just think it's something that all agents should have access to. Another plus is they do have an easy way to reconnect with your clients if your NPN (National Producer Number) is left off of the account. They pay the lowest commissions in my area but in many cases they are the better carrier. There are no dedicated agent broker portals so we cannot see our Exchange client status in real time. They have also made commission adjustments for payments that were not received in 2014. Overall they are much improved but in my opinion they are still lacking in many areas.
The fourth company I feel really has the potential to be the leader for people who are new to the health insurance market. They have a great product and healthcare concept but their customer service leaves much to be desired. Their agent broker relationship is virtually nonexistent. All though you can see a list of names of the people you submitted on the Exchange along with the effective date you do not have access to other general client information such as account status, or member ID numbers. That is something that would be helpful if a client called and wanted to know the status of their account. It would also help us to alert our clients if we see any problems with their account such as a pending lapse. There is no dedicated agent broker phone line. An agent or broker has to wait in line along with all the other consumers sometimes for two or more hours to resolve an issue especially during times of high call volumes. There is a total lack of communication between the third party biller and the company. So when you call their billing department they may say an issue has been resolved, but when you call member services they may have no record of the issue being resolved which has caused a lot of frustration and wasted time for both me and my clients.
I have had several major client issues with this company that to this day has not been 100% resolved. Some problems that were supposed to be solved have been resurrected. I had one client who was up to date on their payments that was canceled due to a company error which was caught only because they called to see why they had not received their enrollment materials. 27 days later we discovered he was cancelled due to a company error. This is something that could have been caught early if they provided agent broker portals to all appointed agents. This company also does not have an easy way to reconnect with your clients if your NPN number had been dropped. They have a link for a sample Broker of Record form which takes you to a page that says “The Page Does Not Exist.” Most GA's in my area cannot help with exchange business submitted to this company so we are left on our own to solve any problems we may have.
While some companies seem to understand what agents need to work effectively for them and to serve their clients better others are really lacking in this area. I think that all of the company should engage as much as they can with their appointed agents and brokers. They should get our opinions and feedback on a regular basis. When you care about someone their opinion not only matters but is taken into consideration and you take actions to make improvements. Pep rally type webinars and seminars do no good if the agent broker relationship doesn't exist. A good product is meaningless if customer service is so poor and frustrating that many consumers want to switch to a new company as soon as Open Enrollment begins in the fall.
So my advice to companies is, listen to you agents and to you customers. Poll them. Use something free or low cost like Survey Monkey or Jotform. If you give the impression you for not care people will not care to be with you. Now is the time to act.