Brokers saw a great deal of success on the state-run exchange in Idaho, enrolling about 50% of the more than 76,000 private health plans sold on the marketplace, according to an exchange spokeswoman who noted the percentage is based on anecdotal information at this time.

The state's insurance commissioner confirmed Thursday that Idaho was second in the nation per capita for total enrollments on the exchange, an accomplishment that could be thanks to brokers' direct line to the department of insurance, allowing them to play a crucial role in enrollment before navigators.

Idaho approved their exchange — called Your Health Idaho — late in the state’s spring 2013 legislative season so used the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Service’s enrollment technology on Healthcare.gov to complete applications. There simply wasn’t enough time to develop a marketplace backend before open enrollment 2014 began. Not rushing the process worked out for exchange leaders as they announced Monday that 76,061 Idahoans gained coverage through the system — exceeding Congressional Budget Office predictions by 36,000 enrollments.

Jody Olson, spokeswoman for Your Health Idaho, said Wednesday that her office estimates about 50% of the total enrollments involved a broker. That’s a higher percentage than any other state reporting such figures. So far, Kentucky is second with 44% of brokers enrolling private health plans, California third with 39%, Connecticut fourth with 31% and Washington fifth with 28%, according to data compiled by EBA. Not all states have released this information yet. Some, like New York, say they plan to do so soon and others have not returned requests for information or have said they don’t know when or if they’ll have that data broken down.

A CMS spokeswoman said in late March they don’t have the information broken down for the federally run exchange states.

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60%

Dave Munger, broker at Insurance Northwest in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho and legislative chairman of the Idaho Association of Health Underwriters, thinks brokers probably enrolled more than 50% and looks forward to the final release of the numbers.

Blue Cross of Idaho has enrolled the most out of any carrier on the marketplace with about 55,000, according to Trent Sutton, broker at Semons Financial Group in Pocatello, Idaho and president of the Idaho Association of Health Underwriters. “Blue Cross Idaho says 60% of the 55,000 are attributed to a broker and that number is probably pretty exact,” he says.

Munger attributes broker success to Director Bill Deal — who is the state’s insurance commissioner as head of the department of insurance — and his understanding of the important role agents and brokers play in communities. Deal confirms this.

“I worked with the Your Health Idaho board, and the board agreed that the primary connection between the exchange and Idaho citizens would be agents and brokers," Deal said in a statement Thursday morning. "We were fortunate that exchange-certified agents were willing to play a major part in enrollment events held throughout the state. Idaho was second in the nation per capita for number of residents successfully enrolled in a health insurance plan on the exchange ..."

“They didn’t really have navigators, not a lot,” he says. “Because [Deal] wanted to make sure consumers were getting the correct information and protection. You can’t have a navigator trained in 90 days and have them know about the plans and networks. We knew that.” He adds: “[Deal] knew agents were the only way to enroll people properly and have some successful results.”

Sutton agrees that the insurance commissioner's backing was key to broker success, also noting that Your Health Idaho’s call center was good about pointing consumers in the direction of an agent in their local area. 

“Even though Obamacare was unpopular in Idaho, I give a lot of credit to the brokers because they saw the situation for what it was — that Idahoans could benefit from this,” he says, adding that he’s seen data estimating 80% of the state falls in the category of subsidy-eligible.

Future

The state is now developing their own exchange backend for open enrollment 2015 so they don’t have to use Healthcare.gov.

“They’ve reached out to us and [when] … testing the new exchange they’re getting broker input on the problems with Healthcare.gov and we want to make it a much smoother process,” Sutton says.

Munger says another change he’d ask the state for is to modify the open enrollment timeframe so that brokers can assist even more. With Medicare open enrollment going on simultaneous to the public exchanges’, it would better suit brokers and consumers “to do it with people’s birthday month or something, so it spreads enrollment out a bit.”

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