by Chris Huckins Google+ Email 


24 April 2014

Covered California Director Talks Future Fixes with Top Insurance Agent

Posted in Individual Health Insurance

Covered California Director Talks Future Fixes with Top Insurance Agent

When Peter Lee, Director of Covered California, mentioned a rather obscure insurance agent from Canoga Park in his blog on Monday, it blind-sided Edmond Haronian like a Kardashian trick-or-treating at his doorstep (also a true story). 

Over the past year, agents like Haronian got the cold shoulder from Covered California. Ads from the state marketplace directed consumers to sign up for insurance by calling their number or visiting their website. There was seldom acknowledgement that certified agents were also available to enroll customers who didn't want to wait on hold for hours to complete a glitchy online application. Sure, Covered CA's homepage had a hardly-noticeable "Find Help Near You" button, but it was shared by agents, councilors, and county service agencies alike.

Edmond Haronian thought his accomplishment of signing up over 600 Californians during open enrollment would go unnoticed, even after Covered California released data revealing agents had enrolled over 39% of all applicants - second only to consumers who enrolled themselves. Covered CA reps enrolled 9%. 

To his surprise, Haronian not only got recognized in Lee's blog but chatted with the director on Wednesday. Lee sought feedback and discussed improvements Covered California would make to assist health insurance agents they once ignored. 

Here's a breakdown of what Lee and Haronian brainstormed. 

How to Support Agents

#1  Agents need a dedicated line.

  • Agents who deal with hundreds of applications can't wait on hold for 3 hours for support for each client. Immediate assistance = more enrollments. 

#2  Agents need training on how to complete applications. Training as it is only teaches new insurance standards and not how the online application works. 

  • Train agents to troubleshoot basic problems (Example: clear the cookies, change browser, withdraw application, etc) 

#3  Agents who are Top Producers should get leads. 

  • Rather than give agents customer information for cold calling (Customers feel their privacy is violated) - Email + mail customers to contact a Certified Agent so consumers are in control.
  • While on hold with Covered CA, callers have the option to Dial # to find a Certified Agent by zipcode. 

How Agents Can Help

#1  The public needs to know that agents are there to help.

  • Ads should always mention agents. Only toward the last month did Covered CA ads mention agents. 
  • The public needs to know that Certified Agents are free so they don' t fall for scams. Some agents charge hundreds of dollars to enroll, especially for vulnerable Medi-Cal clients. 

How a Better Agent Portal = More Enrollments

#1   The agent portal needs to be agent-friendly. 

  • Agents should have the ability to organize alphabetically, by enrollment date, by effective date, etc. via the online portal.

#2   There should be automatic notifications to agents for every application. 

  • Right now it's a guessing game. Agents are forced to call each customer and insurance company to follow up on each application status, instead of it being automated.
  • Notifications should tell agents whether required documents are submitted and approved, payments are submitted and approved, etc. 

#3  Applications should be under Agent's SS# and Tax ID#.

  • This makes it easier for Covered CA and insurance companies to search for our applications, allowing them to pay commission to agents on time.

Peter Lee was completely receptive to Edmond Haronian's ideas, many of which he said are on Covered California's To-Do List.

Lee mentioned that while agents received the cold-shoulder in the beginning, he quickly corrected the mistake by educating call center reps to treat agents as an extension of Covered California. 

We look forward to a fresh start in the fall, an even better enrollment season, and a symbiotic relationship between Covered California and Certified Agents. From the sounds Wednesday's chat, he's our biggest supporter and we're his.