Anne Petry wasn’t the first broker to sign up for federal health insurance exchange training on the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services website, and she certainly won’t be the last.

Petry, an insurance broker and consultant at Jaggi Insurance in Forsyth, Ill., says she “waited a little bit to let CMS work out any kinks they might have had right away.” The federal training went live on Aug. 1, but Petry didn’t begin the 4-5 hour, online-only training until Sept. 16. When EBA spoke with the independent agent last week she was almost done and characterized it as, “pretty easy, straight-forward, and a little redundant for the agent who has to cover some of the same topics in our continuing education requirements.” She continues: “My only complaint is that the website takes forever.”

Over on the West Coast, Karen Winters had to spend eight hours in a downtown San Diego classroom to meet only part of her requirements for certification on Covered California, one of the 17 state-based exchanges that will open on Oct. 1. As EBA’s September feature outlined, brokers in California need to log about 13 hours to complete training, with the additional four hours outside the classroom dedicated to virtually learning about the enrollment portal. “The thing that burns me up is that we’re already licensed professionals, it’s not like we don’t have to take CE credits to keep up with things,” says Winters, a producer at Benefit Pro Insurance Services, Inc., in San Diego. She adds that if it weren’t for the instructor, a broker himself, “it wouldn’t have been bearable … he really gave the benefit of the doubt that people who should have been in that room, and people who were in the profession, didn’t need to be retaught.”

According to a National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors survey released Tuesday, 50% of NAIFA’s members who sell health insurance in states with federally-run exchanges say they have taken part in the CMS training and 29% say they plan to do so. Of the respondents who live in state-run exchange states, 33% say they have taken CMS training and 31% say they plan to do so. NAIFA did not ask about state-specific broker training.

Winters is “surprised” at the high number of participants cited in the NAIFA poll, considering she just recently took the first class offered in San Diego. She can’t imagine how so many people could have completed training already. However, she says the fact that the federal training is shorter and online-only adds perspective. “We have to do a lot to work with them,” she explains about Covered California.  

Some of the other state-run exchanges are asking even more. Brokers in Colorado are expected to complete around 24 hours-worth of training, according to a Connect for Health Colorado official in an interview in August. New Mexico’s exchange CEO expected about 16 hours of training for brokers who want to sell on their SHOP exchange and Idaho, as of August, was planning to have brokers and agents undergo the CMS navigator training program that is an estimated 20 hours of online work. New York, Kentucky, Oregon and Connecticut, some of the other state-run exchange states, clocked in broker training between four and eight hours.

Winters, who predominantly sells group benefits, thinks the training will be worth it in the end. “I do individual by referral only and only for people who know me … favors for friends of friends sort of thing,” she explains. In one case she knows about already, she might be able to save a friend of a friends’ son more than $100 by taking him to Covered California from an individual plan. “I’ve already gotten 15 calls about the exchange … it will be interesting,” she says. She adds that there were a few things she did learn in the training that she didn’t already know, like the fact that Alaska and Native-American Indians are exempt from the individual mandate and the change in poverty level percentage from 133 to 138. But as with most things Affordable Care Act-related, a lot remains to be seen.

NAIFA conducted the poll Sept. 10-12 at the group’s annual meeting and had 600 respondents. Fifty-four percent of those live in states with federally run exchanges and 32% live in states with state-run exchanges.

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