Distributors roll out PPACA plans

As interest groups talk about navigators and armies of volunteer enrollers, public exchanges and financial services companies are focused on setting up commercial exchange plan distribution networks.

Managers of the state-based Covered California small-business exchange has created a team of four general agents to recruit retail agents for its Small Business Health Options Program plans.

H&R Block has agreed to let GoHealth create a branded website its customers can use to shop for coverage online.

The Covered California general agent team will include Claremont Insurance Services, Dickerson Employee Benefits, LISI Inc. and Warner Pacific Insurance Services.

The GAs will provide product and sales training for the retail agents who work directly with employers with 50 or fewer eligible employees.

The general agents also will convert paper applications into an electronic format and help the SHOP exchange offer multi-carrier plan menu options by aggregating the issuers’ benefit and rate information.

The new Covered California GAs have been active players in the commercial health market.

But H&R Block is not known as a health insurance distributor but has been active in helping promote income-based government health programs for years. In 2001, for example, the tax return preparation company helped give out brochures promoting the Children’s Health Insurance Program. 

In 2003, the payroll and benefits services arm of H&R Block agreed to let Digital Insurance Inc. offer health benefits programs to small payroll services customers.

This year, the company chose GoHealth to help consumers understand how to use the new Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act “advance premium tax credits” to buy coverage through the public exchange system.

GoHealth CEO Clint Jones noted in a statement that consumers can use tax credits to cut the amount they pay for health coverage, but also might have to pay large sums back if they accidentally collect too much.

Because of the way exchange plan decisions will involve both health insurance and taxes, a partnership between an insurance firm and a tax firm is a natural fit, Jones said.

Exchanges, retailers and insurers also are organizing smaller distribution alliances.

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