Behind the success of the 12.7 million Americans enrolling in 2016 marketplace plans are the dedicated assisters who helped so many consumers apply for, enroll in, and retain coverage. Assisters, including Navigators, Certified Application Counselors, and agents and brokers, were a first stop for many of the 7 in 10 individuals wanting in-person assistance during the third open enrollment period (OE3).
Officials running state-based marketplaces also recognize the importance of in-person assistance. MNsure, Minnesota’s state marketplace, has created a unique coalition of broker-operated enrollment centers (BECs), and brokers can apply annually to run BECs across the state. In OE3, the second year of the initiative, MNsure expanded the program to 20 BECs from six in OE2, and exceeded their enrollment goals.
In May 2016, Wakely Consulting released a report with four key takeaways about the success of BECs:
- Enrollment growth: Total OE3 enrollment in counties served by BECs increased by 119 percent, compared to the first open enrollment period (OE1); meanwhile, enrollment in non-BEC counties increased by only 84 percent — a difference of 35 percentage And the initiative is a win-win: BECs are benefitting from substantial increases in customers, and MNsure is benefitting with significant increases in enrollment.
- Customer service: From past open enrollment periods, we know that marketplaces across the country can face challenges with support services during high-traffic periods. Working with the broker community, MNsure was able to take advantage of highly-trained staff suited to assist customers. As a result, BEC brokers spent 10,000 hours helping more than 8,000 Minnesota residents during OE3, with little cost to MNsure.
- High satisfaction among MNsure staff and BEC brokers: Most BEC brokers believe their outreach campaigns directed at new consumers, re-enrollees, and the uninsured were effective in their specific counties. All surveyed BEC brokers plan to work with MNsure, or to increase their commitments to the initiative, for the next open enrollment period. Additionally, high satisfaction among MNsure staff highlights that selective partnering with motivated brokers around the state is valuable. These successfully-managed alliances may help with MNsure staff retention and motivate more brokers to join the program.
- Year-round commitment: We are pleased to see, that like many assister programs, BEC brokers are committed to providing year-round support services, such as helping customers understand covered benefits, assisting individuals with premium payments, or determining new eligibility for tax-subsidies after reported income changes. Services like these are crucial to helping individuals understand and retain their coverage.
And the success of agent and broker partnerships extends beyond Minnesota! Covered California, California’s state marketplace, reported that 43 percent of new enrollees were broker-assisted last year. Idaho’s state marketplace, Your Health Idaho, increased training and certification for Idaho’s brokers so that consumers have access to experts in their communities.
To hear more about agents and brokers, and ways to partner with them, you can listen to the recording of Enroll America’s webinar on the topic: Partnering with Agents and Brokers to Boost In-Person Assistance and Enrollment.