Brokers operating in the federally run exchange states remain frustrated with broker functions on the website as the government announces that 26,794 enrollments were completed for health plans between Oct. 1 and Nov. 2 compared with 79,391 for the state-run exchanges.

In Arkansas, where U.S. Department of Health and Human Services data show that only 250 consumers were able to select a health plan through the Affordable Care Act’s Healthcare.gov, broker Joe Childers says the numbers are very telling. “This clearly tells us that the presumed level of engagement for individuals to take action and enroll isn't there,” says the owner of Watershed Benefits in Little Rock. “People with incentive to get people enrolled — insurance agents who receive commission — are the only way to get this done, and unfortunately, as of now, it is much more difficult to complete an agent-assisted enrollment than it is for a person to go enroll by themselves.”

Childers told EBA last week that he’s resorted to phone applications for his clients because his broker portal for Healthcare.gov isn’t working. However, when he called to check in on three of those submissions, the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services had no record of them.

Texas, the state with the largest uninsured population, enrolled 2,991 in the federal exchange. “That’s horrible,” says Kelly Fristoe, broker at Financial Partners in Wichita Falls, Texas and president of the Texas Association of Health Underwriters. “If they’d let us agents in the loop those numbers would surely be higher.”

Fristoe said Wednesday that he recently took a client through a phone enrollment, guiding her and giving her advice on her answers to the questions posed by the CMS call center operator. When he gave the operator his national producer number at the end of the process he says, “[she] told us that she was not going to do that because I was not the one assisting my client — that she was.” He explained he was a registered and trained broker on the exchange and the he wanted to speak with her manager so he could get “credit” for doing the work to prep his client. The operator proceeded to put them on hold for 20 minutes until they got hung up on. “[My client’s] coverage is ceasing to exist on Dec. 31, 2013,” Fristoe says. “Therefore, we needed to expedite this as soon as possible.” He proceeded with a paper application since the call center didn’t work, and included his producer number, but he remains concerned because this medium takes more time for subsidy determinations than the website or call center.

7 million goal

“At this pace, the Obama Administration will never be able to meet their enrollment goals,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) in a statement. “In fact, in state after state, the number of people whose health insurance is being dropped because of Obamacare’s insurance mandates and requirements far exceeds the numbers of those who are signing up. “

HHS has repeatedly said that their goal is to have 7 million individuals signed up on the state and federal exchanges by the time open enrollment ends on March 31, 2014. “We have every reason to expect more people will enroll,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on a call Wednesday with reporters. She added that Massachusetts numbers were very low at the beginning, a comparison the Obama administration has been drawing for the last few weeks. 

For more coverage on the enrollment numbers, view our story here.

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