Navigators beat agents in fight for young PPACA exchange plan buyers

Licensed insurance agents and brokers have had a hard time competing with official public exchange websites, call centers and nonprofit helpers, but they seem to be outselling the insurers’ own websites and call centers.

Licensed producers also seem to be doing a better job of getting the attention of older Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) exchange plan buyers.

Analysts at Deloitte’s health care unit have published data supporting those conclusions in a summary of results from a recent consumer survey. The survey team asked the PPACA exchange plan enrollees in the sample about the channels they used to shop for qualified health plan (QHP) coverage.

PPACA has provided billions of dollars in funding to launch the public exchange enrollment systems, marketing operations and nonprofit consumer helper operations. The distribution picture could change in coming years, as PPACA exchange startup funding dries up.

But, for now, the official public exchange websites and call centers seem to be the big gorillas: 52 percent of the exchange QHP users in the sample said they shopped for their QHP coverage on an exchange website, and 21 percent said they got help from an exchange call center.

Navigators and producers were midsize players: 14 percent of the QHP users in the samples said they sought in-person help from a navigator, and 12 percent used agents or brokers.

Ten percent shopped for coverage through an insurance company website. Just 3 percent bought their coverage from an insurance company call center, and only 1 percent bought coverage from the new, much-publicized brick-and-mortar health insurance stores.

Agents and brokers may have sent the exchanges older applicants than the navigators did.

Agents and brokers brought in 87 percent as many QHP applicants as the navigators did for the 55-and-older age group; 80 percent as much for the 35-to-54 age group; and only about 68 percent as much in the 18-to-34 age group, according to the Deloitte survey data.

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