Michigan insurance agents should be used to ‘navigate’ Obamacare
To the Editor,
As the President of the Michigan Association of Health Underwriters, a group of local health insurance agents with over 650 members across the state, it is our job to help individuals choose the appropriate health care insurance for themselves and their families. The recent National Health Care Reform or PPACA (Obamacare) among other things mandates that states create an exchange for people to find and select health plans. Here in Michigan, we have gone down the path of a Federal/State Health Partnership.
One essential function we could retain in this partnership will be to create and oversee a consumer assistance function — not in the sense of a call center — but in the role of identifying and overseeing “navigators” and agents who will assist and enroll individuals or businesses into qualified health plans through the exchange.
As an insurance agent, it is my responsibility to help my clients choose the correct option for them — not the one that might benefit my agency the most.
Navigators as laid out under PPACA are government funded, unlicensed volunteers with no fiduciary responsibility to the people they help enroll into health plans. As it stands today, PPACA does not require them to carry an insurance license nor Errors and Omissions coverage.
Under the ‘consumer assistance’ portion of the partnership model exchange, Michigan can establish its own regulatory environment for navigators and put them on an equal plain as agents. However, this task is a large one and we need funding to get it off the group. The State was recently awarded a $31 million grant from the federal government that will allow Michigan to fulfill this important oversight function and responsibility.
Michigan, and not the federal government, will establish the standards and provide the accountability needed in overseeing navigators and agents working through the exchange.
However, we need the State Legislature to appropriate the funds or the State will be forced to use vital state funds or just turn the oversight over to the federal government.
Whether you support it or not Obamacare is going into effect and it comes down to keeping Michigan health insurance agents on the job or sending your questions about your health insurance to a 1-800 number in Washington DC!
E. Brad Scoffin, President
Michigan Association of Health Underwriters