Straight from the Enrollment Trenches
Agents and producers that are engaged in 2014 enrollments through the new healthcare exchanges have entered uncharted territory. Learning a new system is always challenging, but coupled with the highly-publicized technology glitches happening on the exchanges, navigating these enrollments may seem nearly impossible. Although the enrollment process varies by state and situation, agents who have tried their hand at exchange enrollments have shared their experiences with us. For tips on how to guide your clients through 2014 via the exchanges, read on for firsthand advice.
1. Exercise Caution Around Entering a Monthly Loss
Some self-employed individuals experience a net loss during the month in which they are applying. One of the questions in the enrollment is, “What is your expected profit or loss THIS month?” One agent noted that answering this question honestly can raise a whole host of issues. Currently, although the system allows for the input of a negative income, it should not be entered, or else the application will be placed on hold. Until this glitch is fixed, you may want to guide your clients toward figuring out how to avoid this question.
2. If Possible, Complete the Application In One Window of Time
Agents noted that going straight through the entire application without stopping generally yields better results. one agent said, “Every time I’ve stopped, I have trouble with the results when I go back in to complete the app, and sometimes I cannot log back in. I usually have to start over.” Therefore, it’s best to choose a window of time in which you can start and complete the application.
3. Sometimes, Starting Over is the Quickest Solution
Agents shared that when they have made mistakes or gotten an “identify verification” message at the end of the enrollment process, they don’t have great luck calling Healthcare.gov. Actually reaching a live representative who will field specific questions is difficult, and that there are several bureaucratic steps that can be skipped over by just starting the application over again.
One agent told us, “Last night had trouble after I correct an error on a child’s date of birth. It would not allow me to add the child as a dependent. It would give the “someone else” but when I enter the child’s info, it would say they are already added. Frustrating. Just had to erase the app and start over.”
4. Be Consistent With Social Security Card Information
More than one agent noted that it’s important to make sure the client’s information on the application matches their Social Security card. Even though it’s a simple issue, it appears to cause a lot of errors. One agent noted that he corrected an error on a child’s date of birth,
5. Prepare Clients In Advance
Prior to online enrollment, many agents reported that their clients can take steps to expedite the process. One agent, Rusty Williams of My Medigap Consultant, created a step-by-step guide to send to clients and prospects to get them started on the application. It is a walk-through for creating an account, and includes screen shots. Putting in this legwork upfront can save time on questions and confusion for clients.
5. Make Sure You Know What Is Considered to be “Income”
Agents did note that clients receiving disability income will have that money counted as income on their applications. Reportedly, a good rule of thumb is that if it is a public program like Social Security Disability Income, it is taxable. If it is a private insurance purchased with after-tax dollars, it is not taxable. If it is private insurance purchased with pre-tax dollars or that is employer-provided, it is taxable.
It can be tricky, though. One agent noted that the categorization of private disability is undecided at this time. If you want to include it (to keep your client off Medicaid), do so. If you don’t want to include it, you are not obligated to do so at this time. Additionally, Social Security income does not count as income at this time.
6. Where Possible, Use Already-Established Insurance Company Websites
For some insurance companies working with the exchanges, clients can apply for subsidies through the company website directly, instead of applying through healthcare.gov. One agent noted that the Blue Cross Blue Shield will redirect applications to their own plan section, once the subsidy is calculated. This will make the experience freer of glitches and bugs, as these companies have well-established websites.