The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services wants “to bring 60,000 more” agents and brokers on for consumer assistance with the Affordable Care Act’s federally run exchanges, according to documents. The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, chaired by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), on Monday posted “war room notes” from CMS meetings that included a line item dated Oct. 11: “Next week we will [be] attempting to stoke the furnace of agent brokers and get more of them in.” The note also included that this strategy is “contingent” on broker identity and password software functioning.

“CMS contacted NAIFA to share ideas about getting more agents involved with enrolling consumers,” says Diane Boyle, vice president of federal government relations for the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors. “Among other things, CMS has scheduled additional dates for their Agent Broker Training and Registration webinars on November 8, 15 and 22. NAIFA is sharing this information with our members and encouraging those who would benefit from it and have not taken it to sign up.”

The National Association of Health Underwriters spokeswoman Kathryn Gaglione declined to comment on the matter at this time. Regarding the broker software functions, a CMS spokeswoman says all website issues are being worked on and updates on progress will be provided regularly to the media, but gave no information at this time. 

In a Senate hearing Tuesday, CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner said 70,000 brokers have already been trained on the federal exchanges, becoming the highest ranking Obama administration spokesperson since Healthcare.gov’s rocky launch on Oct. 1 to voluntarily mention brokers as an option for consumers looking to enroll.

“We have currently over 70,000 agent brokers who have been trained to assist people, we have navigators in every state …” said Tavenner in response to questioning at the hearing about consumers who desire in-person enrollment. EBA reported last week that Tavenner, along with President Barack Obama and other CMS representatives, had repeatedly neglected to include brokers when listing enrollment resources in public discussions. 

While Tavenner did not mention anything about looking for more agent and broker assistance, Sen. John Isakson (R-Ga.) had insurance professionals in mind at Tuesday's hearing.

“So the only access to human beings that could be incentivized to tell somebody what’s in the plan is either to call the [help line], go on the website or find a navigator,” he said, referring to the harm that the ACA does to brokers with the medical loss ratio restricting commissions and not allowing them to become navigators. “I really think the CMS should consider rethinking the prohibition of them from the medical loss ratio and the unintended consequence of not allowing insurance agents be navigators, because that’s just limiting the American people from getting information that you want them to have.”

Isakson is a sponsor of a broker-friendly bill to remove brokers from the MLR. It hasn’t moved since it was introduced in March.

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