While the rest of the country — from consumers to brokers to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services — was trying to access the public exchange websites on Oct. 1, the state-run Connecticut exchange enrolled 167 people in health insurance on that day. And even more remarkable for the broker community, 165 of those “had brokers attached to them,” says Paul Smith, broker at Paul E. Smith Insurance in Southington, Conn., and past-president of the Connecticut Association of Health Underwriters.

While he didn’t have more recent numbers for brokers’ enrollments to-date, he did say “we are flying in Connecticut” and he thinks it’s all thanks to that state’s leadership. “The CEO of our exchange was one of the main people who put the Massachusetts experience together,” Smith says. “The first thing he realized they did wrong was not getting brokers involved. So first thing he did was to get brokers involved and make sure legislators understood what our role is.” 

He says brokers worked on every planning committee for the exchange and they also had “one of our own” working full-time for Connecticut. Phil Boyle, who EBA spoke with in August about broker training, is the business-to-business outreach manager at Access Health CT who has held various positions in the broker community before landing at the exchange. Smith thinks it made a big difference to have someone thinking like them. 

But Smith is also quick to say that the experience is not perfect — there are still some difficult logistics in connecting consumers with brokers and still a lot more plans to be sold.  But for the moment, brokers in the state are able to “take a breath.” 

Meanwhile, in the task to fix Healthcare.gov and access for people in the 36 federally-run exchanges, the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said that two important fixes have been made since the “tech surge” announcement last week:

1) The site responsiveness was “reconfigured,” especially in regard to the window shopping functionality. “It now responds in just seconds,” compared to minutes, said CMS spokeswoman Julie Bataille on a call Monday with reporters.

2) “The eligibility notifications now display properly at the end of the application process,” she said. 

EBA reported Friday the extreme difficulty that still plagues brokers trying to enroll people in states like Texas and Illinois that are federally-run exchanges.

Connecticut’s Smith says to keep with it. “People who aren’t providing a lot of value, those [brokerages] are going to get hurt the most,” he says.

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