How to best include brokers in the SHOP enrollment process

While health insurance brokers may be the key to the Affordable Care Act's Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) enrollment success, obstacles remain on how to best include them in the process, reported Employee Benefit News.

So far, some states' SHOP enrollment numbers are dismal. For instance, Nevada's SHOP exchange--Nevada Health Link--enrolled only six individuals as of Feb. 22, reported LifeHealthPro.

Recognizing the difficulty to sign up individuals on the SHOP exchange, Rhode Island enlisted the help of brokers. Yet a challenge that remains is establishing a trusting relationship with the broker community. Many brokers "have a negative reaction to us being in their space," Anya Rader Wallack, executive director of HealthSource Rhode Island, said at a recent conference in the District of Columbia, according to EBN.

Another challenge is educating brokers on insurance terms and products. Brokers in New Mexico expressed interest in additional training, noted EBN. Susannah Buckley-Green, director of the US healthcare practice at Burson-Marsteller told EBN that, while little effort has been placed on informing brokers, that will soon change as the exchange ups its efforts to engage brokers statewide.

At first, New Mexico's SHOP exchange excluded brokers, who weren't very pleased with the decision. Many clamored for the exchange to go about the process without them. Now, the exchange understands the important role brokers play and encourages other brokers to be part of the solutions and work with the exchange. "Resisting will not do us any good," the exchange's CEO said, according to EBN.

Finally, continuing the conversation is crucial for enrollment success, Bruce Gilbert, executive director of Nevada Health Link, told LifeHealthPro. It's imperative for state exchanges to communicate with agents and brokers to come up with strategies for improving results, he added.

Recently, brokers' relevance tothe industry has been up for debate: On one side, it's possible that the SHOP insurance exchanges were meant to replace brokers; on the other hand, brokers may be essential to exchanges, FierceHealthPayer previously reported.

For more:
- here's the Employee Benefit News article
- check out the LifeHealthPro piece