TOPICS: AMERICAN HEALTH CARE ACT, CONSUMER ADVOCATES, DONALD TRUMP, HEALTH INSURANCE, HEALTH INSURANCE MARKETPLACE, KAISER HEALTH NEWS, MEDICINE, POLITICS NEWS
This post originally appeared on Kaiser Health News.
Signing up for coverage on the health insurance marketplace should be easier for some people this fall because new federal rules will allow brokers and insurers to handle the entire enrollment process online, from soup to nuts. Some consumer advocates are concerned, though, that customers going this route won’t get the comprehensive, impartial plan information they need to make the best decision due to the financial self-interest of insurers and brokers.
“Facilitating the participation of brokers and getting web brokers involved is a good thing for the market,” said Timothy Jost, emeritus professor at Washington and Lee University School of Law in Virginia and an expert on health reform. But there are risks for consumers. “If you’re enrolling with a web broker, you could see ‘best deals’ that often aren’t the best deal for you but are the best deal for the people who are marketing them.”
The guidance was released earlier this month by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which oversees the online marketplaces. It will streamline the enrollment process for consumers who work directly with an insurer or broker to shop for coverage on healthcare.gov, the federal marketplace in more than 30 states. States that run their own marketplaces aren’t affected by this change.
In the past, consumers could start the online enrollment process with a broker or insurer, but then they had to bounce off the broker’s or insurer’s website to go to the federal marketplace website to see if they were eligible for premium tax credits, among other things. In theory, they then could return to the insurer or web broker to complete the enrollment process. In practice, many didn’t — though they may have enrolled elsewhere, either completing the process on healthcare.gov or with another vendor.