How You Can Prepare For Open Enrollment

The ACA Open Enrollment Period comes up fast, and can be a stressful time, not only for people shopping for plans, but also for agents selling policies. There is going to be a large number of people looking for health insurance this month and next, so you’ll need to be prepared! In order to have a smooth experience during this Open Enrollment Period, you will need to have the right resources and know what to expect, so check out our tips to help you save time, avoid mistakes, and sell more.

Make Sure You Are Registeredlaptop screen with a green checkmark in a box

Before you can make any sales during the Open Enrollment Period, you will have to be authorized to sell plans through healthcare.gov, so make sure that you have completed registration and training to become a federally facilitated Marketplace agent or broker. 

Be Aware of Any Changes

Double-check with all of the insurance carriers you work with so you’re aware of any changes to plans for the coming year, and you know which carriers are entering or leaving your market. If you are contracted with a carrier, they will send you announcements around July or August, so make sure you’ve reviewed all of the information you received this summer. 

Market Your Services

With so many people shopping for insurance plans during the OEP, now is the time to market your business and get your name out there as much as possible The best way to market yourself and your services is by producing guides, blog posts, advice, and more to help engage your audience, and provide them with the information they are looking for, so you can entice them to reach out for your assistance. 

social media written in blocks next to a phone with facebook login page on the screen
Link your blog posts to your social media accounts to get yourself out there more.

Maintain Your Social Media Accounts

In addition to marketing your business through your site and blogs, one of the other ways that you can market yourself is through social media platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tik Tok. Link your blog posts to your social media accounts, engage in conversations about health insurance, and share important information.

Keep Up With The Industry

It’s important to stay on top of what’s going on in the health insurance industry so you can be better prepared for the Open Enrollment Period. Stay on top of eligibility requirements, and any updates or changes by reading any articles you come across.

Don’t Forget Your Current Clients!

silhouette of two people shaking hands
Take the time to contact your current clients and make sure they are happy with their current plan.

Check in with your current clients and make sure that the plans they have will still suit their needs for the next year. Take the time to contact them and ask them if they are happy with their current plan and make them aware of any changes coming to their plans. Paying attention to the needs of your customers and showing that you are dedicated to them in this way will ensure that they remain satisfied with your service. 

In addition, make sure to engage with your customers year-round, not just during the Open Enrollment Period, in order to build more personal and solid relationships with them. This can also open the door to more cross-selling opportunities. 

Selling during the Open Enrollment Period is an important part of growing your business, and the best way to make as many sales as possible during this busy time is to be prepared. Follow the tips presented to reach leads, convert them to clients, and further your knowledge of the industry. This will not only help you during the Open Enrollment Period, but throughout your whole career!

Get Ready to Sell Alternatives to the ACA this fall

Health insurance companies across the country are going to be raising their rates substantially and consumers, especially those with little or no subsidies, will be seriously considering their alternatives.

The Wall Street Journal reported that multiple insurers across the country have requested rate increases ranging from 8.2% to 65.2%. While those requests will most likely be pushed down by regulators, consumers will be faced with significant increases this fall.

Why Is This Important to You?

  1. A Consumer Ready for Change
    They will be seriously searching for alternatives when they see the increases.
  2. A Price Sensitive Consumer
    Many will drop their expensive exchange plans.
  3. A More Engaged Consumer
    They will be open to hearing about other options.
  4. A Consumer with Money
    Even though they are priced out of the exchange market, they have an established budget to buy health insurance, and will take your offerings seriously.
  5. A Consumer Interested in Ancillaries
    If they stay in the market, they will most likely be buying plans with much higher out of pocket costs, increased copays, and deductibles and they will be very open to ancillary products like accident, critical illness and metal gap plans.

Right now is the time to start planning your strategy for open enrollment. Be proactive, not reactive by having a game plan in place now for the impact of these rate increases this fall. It will lead to a productive selling season where you can work smarter, not harder to meet your income goals.

Affordable Care Act Postpones Employer Penalty

Obamacare faced another significant setback yesterday when the administration announced it would delay the implementation of the employer penalties by a year until 2015. The Obama team bowed to complaints from business groups about the impact the law would have on their companies and their ability to hire new employees.

Mark J. Mazur, the Assistant Secretary for Tax Policy at the U.S. Department of the Treasury, published the news yesterday on the treasury site. The post, Continuing to Implement the ACA in a Careful, Thoughtful Manner, attempts to paint this as a deliberate move to ease the reporting burden on employers as the initial forms were overly complex.

While this postponement does not change other parts of the law, analysts have noted that this delay may be a harbinger of more bad news for Obamacare to come. Especially considering that the federal government has not completed the work necessary to setup exchanges in the 30 states who will not be setting up their own exchanges. This is a herculean task that many experts believe cannot be accomplished in the remaining four months prior to open enrollment.

The Washington Post noted that this is a significant event for the administration, diminishing Obama’s credibility and threatening his legacy as the employer mandate is now in jeopardy of being permanently removed from the act. Which would undermine the entire law as the revenue the mandate will generate significantly contributes to the cost of this new entitlement program.

Employer Coverage Declining

Another article you should read is a thoughtful piece in Forbes where they go into the potential impact of this policy change on employer coverage and they also note that it may not be legal to delay the implementation without an actual change in the law. Essentially, the administration can choose to not enforce the law, but its still the law.

The coming months are going to be exceptionally interesting as we all count down to implementation of one of the largest government run programs in the history of the country.

The ACA and a Unique Interpretation of How ERISA May Apply

ERISA-CongressRecently, Employee Benefit News published an article by Craig J. Davidson, CEBS on how reducing employee hours may create an ERISA problem for employers. Essentially his argument states that employers will be reducing employees hours to to avoid setting up a benefit plan, which interferes with the right of the employee to participate in the plan and therefor this is a violation of ERISA Section 510.

The portion of ERISA which he is basing his thesis states “”It shall be unlawful for any person to discharge, fine, suspend, expel, discipline or discriminate against a participant or beneficiary for exercising any right to which he is entitled under the provisions of an employee benefit plan … or for the purpose of interfering with the attainment of any right to which such participant may become entitled under the plan … ”

Here’s the problem with this argument – there has to be a plan in place which the employee would otherwise have a right to participate in.

The fact is, employers will be reducing hours to avoid a penalty assessed by the government. There is no obligation for the employer to setup a plan so ERISA does not apply to an employer who does not offer a benefit plan and is seeking to legally avoid the penalties of the ACA.

The ACA does not require employers to setup a health plan, it simply penalizes them for not doing so.

Reducing employee hours to reduce or eliminate government penalties does not infringe on an employee’s right to participate in a plan because there is no plan.

At the very least, this interpretation of ERISA is a stretch. A stretch that will make a lot of money for attorneys at the very least.

This does not mean that there won’t be an attempt to enforce this interpretation of ERISA but if you or your client does not offer a plan, applying ERISA will be a hard argument for the government to make.

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