Kentucky has received nationwide praise for its rollout of Kynect, the state’s public health insurance exchange. The verdict on the launch from brokers, however, is more nuanced.

The state reports that insurance agents and brokers completed approximately 36,429, or about 44%, of the 82,795 private health insurance applications received by Kynect as of Tuesday.

Marcus Woodward, a broker in Ashland, Ky. and member of the governor-appointed advisory board for Kentucky’s exchange, says he thinks that number will increase, though.

“There are a lot of people out there with private insurance that haven’t renewed yet in 2014 and there’s a special election period each year, ”he says. “These are people who have already been insured and they can renew off or on the exchange” and many in the state’s population qualify for subsidies through the Affordable Care Act.

The rate at which agents completed applications in the bluegrass state does not include Medicaid enrollments, so truly represents qualified health plan sales, and beats the rate California reported on the same metric — 39%.

See related: How do you measure ACA enrollment success?

Woodward, who says he enrolled more than 700 individuals on Kynect, believes the number accurately reflects the work he saw agents doing but thinks it should be higher. “It should be 100%,” he says, adding that the backbone of the ACA itself — allowing any regular consumer to obtain health insurance for themselves — is up against them. He explained to consumers that it didn’t cost anything extra to have him involved and he’s a solid contact they can contact again and again if they have problems.

Matt Schwartz and Charlie Stoddard, brokers at Schwartz Insurance Group in Louisville, Ky., both said the numbers don’t surprise them. “Our biggest anecdotal experiences related  to non-agent enrollees who did not fully understand the plan or network they selected and needed help fixing it,” says Schwartz, who also serves as the president of the state’s chapter of the National Association of Health Underwriters. “Even with a working exchange, we still have plenty of unresolved problems. This was a difficult rollout in many respects and most brokers are happy to have survived.”

Difficulties

While Woodward admits he’s more of a cheerleader for the health law than many other agents, he says the biggest weakness the Kentucky exchange had with brokers was its Small Business Health Options Program, known as SHOP. He says he enrolled one group total because “the HHS dictates how SHOP has to be handled” and there was no broker portal for enrolling small businesses online.

Only 628 businesses have completed the application for SHOP. The state didn’t provide the number of covered lives. Gwenda Bond, a spokeswoman for the exchange, says very few small business applications involved an agent. “But, we hope to make improvements to the SHOP over the summer and get the agent community more involved there as well,” she says. Woodward says the plan is to add a SHOP option within a broker’s enrollment portal.

Potential

Considering 95% of small business insurance coverage, no matter where it’s obtained, is through an insurance agent or broker, Woodward thinks more brokers may get exchange-certified.

 “Right now there are about 2,800 participating brokers on the exchange. That’s an estimate and we have 22,000 agents in our commonwealth so that’s about 10%. That’s a lot of room for improvement,” he says, adding that his involvement has added a lot of business to his practice. Agent commissions are still handled at the same rate they are off the exchange, unlike other state-run exchanges like Connecticut where brokers have a set amount ($16) per application.

See related: Are ACA exchange carriers swindling brokers?

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