I come from a somewhat unique and biased perspective [on Sebelius' resignation]. Having worked for a state exchange, I have empathy for her impossible work … not enough time to do it right. But also coming from an insurance agent and insurance carrier background, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services could have benefited by engaging the insurance industry instead of vilifying them.

She seemed to be in an unwinnable position and may have wished she did less press (The Daily Show with Jon Stewart) and maybe indulged her critics' hard questions and jabs better. (“whatever”) 

There is a huge chasm to fill between HHS and the industry charged with implementing this complex law. There does not seem to be sufficient trust or partnership from HHS with the very stakeholders who can make this thing work. It seems contradictory to solicit support from carriers and agents while HHS also portrays the insurance industry as the problem.  

Insurance agents have not been warmly welcomed or invited to participate in many enrollment activities or communications from CMS or HHS. Instead agents have to beg HHS for the same information freely provided to navigators.

There are 440,000 licensed agents across the country, about 30,000 active health insurance agents in California alone. In California, 20,000 agents were registered with Covered California and 12,500 got certified. Agents want to serve and play a role in enrolling people, even if the message from HHS is not especially warm or welcoming of agents.  This reluctant partnership between HHS and licensed agents now seems to require legislation to help level the playing field for agents.  

I think the insurance industry may see this change in leadership with hope that Sylvia Burwell will be more supportive. The same is true for the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight executive director role recently vacated by Gary Cohen. I worked with Cohen at Covered California before he moved to Washington D.C. Insurance agents in the FFM states are also hopeful there will be more support and partnership for agents. We’ll see.

Lujan, a former insurance agent and insurance carrier sales executive, was director of sales and marketing at California’s public exchange, Covered California until August 2013 and previously director of the exchange’s SHOP exchange. He is now chief sales officer at Limelight Health Inc., a health IT company, in Redwood City, Calif.

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