Millions of people will be purchasing health insurance through marketplaces, which are part of the Affordable Care Act provision. In doing this, some consumers face problems with program access due to site failures on the Internet. One option most people forget about or are not told is available is the opportunity to purchase coverage through an agent or broker. These professionals can provide enrollment assistance and valuable advice, and they are able to answer most questions.
There are also navigators, which are not the same as professional brokers and agents. Navigators are paid by the government, and they are not able to provide as much assistance as a broker or agent could. These navigators are prohibited by law to make recommendations or give advice about policies. In the majority of states, navigators do not have to be licensed, and they do not have to comply with the same continuing educations requirements that professional agents are required by law to meet. In addition to this, navigators are not required to keep the professional liability coverage that agents must purchase.
Most independent brokers and agents have been trained to provide assistance to people who are trying to enroll in health plans. They are also able to make consumers aware of options that are not offered through exchanges. Experts point out that choosing a health plan is a serious step that should involve research. It should not be the same as going online and purchasing commodities. Buying inadequate coverage could cost a person his or her life or life savings if something goes wrong.
In addition to the problems consumers could face if they use navigators, experts point out that navigators cannot provide prompt assistance. With the many site issues online associated with the enrollment page, there is a backlog of people waiting for help. About $67 million was put into funding the enrollment efforts, but navigators still have to wait for issues to be fixed despite this investment. As they continue to sort through the piles of paper applications, they will slowly be able to provide limited help to consumers. People who are concerned about obtaining coverage in the time allowed will have better luck talking to a professional broker or agent. Since there is not a great deal of time left to purchase coverage, it is important to contact an agent or my firm as quickly as possible to discuss concerns and ask questions.