Health Connector Talks Of Web Site, Ups Broker Commissions

Connector enrollment 11-12-13

The Health Connector Board met this past Wednesday (Nov. 14) to discuss open enrollment, broker commissions, and progress in getting ready for the ACA.  Materials from the meeting are here, and click on for our full update.

Open enrollment check-in
The check-in marked 45 days into open-enrollment and the presentation gave an update on the Connector’s overall efforts to transition to an ACA complaint market place. The updates included the following:

  • For the small groups, all 10 medical carriers are available for comparison shopping and all 5 dental carriers are available on website for call-centered provided quotes. There are no major issues with website functionality or shopping experience.
  • For non-subsidized individuals, the complete shopping application from end to end is available and premium billing functionality is slated to be available in December.
  • For subsidized individuals, the online application intake and submission is generally available. But real time eligibility determination and complete end to end shopping and plan selection for subsidized products is to be phased in beginning later this month and through December.

As of November 11th, 54,700 accounts had been created, 53,511 applications had been started and 18,625 applications had been submitted. The Connector’s outbound calling campaign has made over 190,000 calls to current members in Commonwealth Care, Young Adult Plans and Commonwealth Choice. The Connector also launched a member mailing campaign which sent approximately 155,000 mailings to current and newly eligible Health Connector members.

The Connector also launched a door-to-door canvassing campaign on October 23rd, working with Health Care for All and 10 regional partners to target over 40,000 homes in communities with high member transition populations. The Connector’s media campaign began on October 21st and involves television, radio, digital, public transportation and print ads.

The main issues with the system’s performance have been slow website responses, timeouts and eligibility intake being unstable with sporadic error messages. The call center has also been difficult to reach, with calls taking on average over 10 minutes to answer and 32% of calls being abandoned. To improve customer service, the Connector is working around the clock to fix the IT problems, leveraging trained assisters (Navigators and CACs) to support member applications and hiring an additional 60 customer service representatives.

Commonwealth Care Extension
The Commonwealth Care program formally ends on December 31st, but the Connector will be providing continuation coverage as needed through the end of federal open enrollment, March 31st, 2014. Federal officials approved the extension in October. The goal is to ensure the Commonwealth Care population is able to take advantage of the full 6 months afforded to everyone else in the country to select their new plans and enroll in new coverage. Since obtaining approval from CMS, the Connector has been working with their Commonwealth Care managed care plans to effectuate this continued coverage (see here for entire presentation).

Small Business Service Bureau contract extension
As part of the implementation of the ACA, the Connector is transitioning members from its existing Commonwealth Choice programs to federally Qualified Health Plans (QHPs). The Small Business Service Bureau (SBSB) is the Connector’s customer service and  business operations vendor for the Commonwealth Choice program. Individuals and small businesses with existing Commonwealth Choice coverage are able to continue their current policies until the end of their plan year in 2014. In order to continue servicing these policies through 2014, the Connector is proposing to extend its contract with SBSB through February 28, 2015. The Board voted to authorize an extension of the current contract for 2014 to provide for transition activities and the servicing of existing pre-ACA accounts through February 28, 2015.

Small Business Initiative
Currently, the Connector provides coverage to just a small fraction of Massachusetts employers. Businesses tend to shop in existing patterns, and awareness of the Health Connector is low. The ACA provides the Connector with an opportunity to better support small employers.  These opportunities include small business tax credits, which will only be available through the Connector, and wellness rebates. The Connector can also support product and employee choice, enhanced IT functionality and operational capabilities, outreach and education, and enhanced support for brokers.  

Board member Louis Malzone commented that lowering the price of plans could be one of the most important factors to improving the small group market. Board member Nancy Turnbull commented that it is difficult for premiums to be lower given the regulatory constraints require the Connector to offer premiums similar to those purchasing coverage outside the market. She also reiterated the need for the Connector to talk with other states about the steps they are taking to improve their small group markets.

Broker Commissions
Finally, the board discussed expanding support for brokers. The Connector conducted detailed interviews with brokers. The Board approved a new broker commission schedule, effective January 1. Currently, the Connector’s commissions are structured differently than many other carriers in the market.  The Board approved expanding the $10 per subscriber per month (PSPM) commission currently offered for groups of up to 5 to go to groups of up to 9. Instead of paying a commission based on 2.5% of the premium for the rest of the small group population (10+), the Connector will pay a flat $23 PSPM instead.
Lara Shkordoff

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