Insurance carrier requires ACA exchange certification for all its agents

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana is requiring that all of its agents in the individual market must be certified to sell in the state’s federally facilitated marketplace, even those who only sell outside of the exchange. Agents also serve as health care advisers, and BCBSLA wants them to know the Affordable Care Act, says Dianne Eysink, director of corporate communications.

“We think it’s important for them to understand what the ACA offers, as well as all of its rules and regulations,” she says. “This enables agents to have the full picture when advising our potential clients as to what is best for them and their families.”

Health Agents for America Inc. President and CEO Ronnell Nolan sees it as a waste of time for agents who don’t sell on the exchange. “They have plenty of work to do otherwise,” she says.

Surprising news

Nolan says she was shocked when she found out about the requirement on Monday. “When I first heard it I said, ‘This can’t be right,’” she says. “It’s wrong on every level.”

Nolan says a Louisiana-based agent who predominantly sells life insurance told her that his BCBSLA portal was shut down. “His staff called and they were told he had to be certified in the marketplace,” she says. “I talked to another agent to ask her if she had heard this and she said, ‘Yes. BCBSLA says everyone must be certified regardless if they do not sell in the marketplace.’”

Nolan sees this as a way for BCBSLA to reduce its number of contracted agents. Nolan is also worried about the national implications, as Blue Cross has the “lion’s share of the market” in many states. The requirement seems to be limited to Louisiana and Blue Cross, Noland says. “I haven’t heard of any other insurance company doing that,” she says.

Eysink couldn’t speak to whether Blue Cross companies in other states are requiring the same certification as Louisiana. “As independent companies, each Blue Plan makes its own policies and procedures,” she says.

The Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association of America did not return a request for comment as of press time.

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