On October 1, the Affordable Care Act’s online exchange will open to consumers seeking health insurance. People will be able to go to Healthcare.gov and select the plan they feel is best for them.
However, that is what some insurance agents are worried about.
“As agents we now have competition,” explained Dan Fleming, a long-time agent in Dekalb County. “Navigators are now our competition and we now have confusion, because we have people who are clients who don’t know should they go to the navigators or should they come to us and it also means that our livelihood is slowly being taken away and dismantled.”
“Healthcare navigators” are trained specialists hired to help people sign up for coverage under the ACA. The federal government awarded groups in Georgia enough grant money to hire 100 navigators.
Many people in the healthcare industry believe that will not be enough navigators to help all of Georgia’s 2 million uninsured.
“I think there will be an influx into the marketplace,” said Donna Hill, an agent with E2E Benefits Services, Inc. in Gwinnett County and a member of the Georgia Association of Health Underwriters. “I think for those that are willing to take the time to do the research and keep up with the law and understand it, there’s going to be more opportunity than there ever has been.”
Hill believes the ACA has made the insurance marketplace so complicated, that most consumers will need help signing up for coverage.
“Don’t hire somebody off the street to help you,” warned Hill. “I would suggest that you find an expert who can walk you through it.”
Consumers who plan to use a navigator or insurance agent to help enroll in health coverage should make sure that person has a certificate from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services confirming he or she completed the online training to participate in the online exchange. Healthcare navigators should also have a license number and a card issued by Georgia’s Office of Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner.
Fleming said he has already begun the process of transitioning his business to be less focused on health insurance.
“Am I going to be turning around and saying to people, 'You know what, I was wrong and this was the greatest thing to come along in years?’ I hope I can say that, because that means I’m still in business,” said Fleming.