1-877-752-4737

Insurance Commissioner Gives Strong Support to California Health Agents

by John Hansen

The Honorable Dave Jones Argues “We couldn’t do this without agents!”

The California State Insurance Commissioner, Dave Jones, came out strongly in favor of California health agents in a talk to the California Association of Health Underwriters on Tuesday, May 17th. He argued that since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, agents and brokers have enrolled “the lion’s share” of newly insured Californians in the State Exchange, and for that he was truly grateful.

The Honorable Dave Jones spoke to a room full of California health insurance agents along with representatives from California health plans, United Health Care, Anthem Blue Cross, Blue Shield of California and Health Net. He said, “You are trusted advisors to individuals, families and businesses helping them make one of the most important decisions they’re going to make, which is how to secure their health and who to secure it with. You provide excellent advice and counsel to help them find products that meet their needs at their price point. And then help make sure that when they have those products they get the coverage and benefits that they have paid for. That’s a lot of work. It is often times unheralded and unappreciated, and I want you to know that I appreciate it. It’s a fine profession.”

These words were music to brokers’ ears. California health agents often have felt not appreciated, and in the last few years especially have felt the need to fight for their livelihood amidst decreasing commission rates. Also, there have been many high level discussions about cutting out brokers altogether.

Jones continued, “I hope that recent developments in the profession over the last five or six years don’t discourage your children from entering. Perhaps you know better than I how discouraging it has been.”

The insurance commissioner was elected in 2010 and re-elected in 2014. He now oversees the largest health insurance market in the United States, including the California health agents. The California market receives $259 billion in premiums annually. He has a staff of professional assistants numbering 1,300 individuals.

“There have been dramatic changes since the ACA, and the success we’ve had is because of you.”

He explained how in 2011 when he started there was a lot of work to do in setting up the Exchange Marketplace. He said, “When reforms were being implemented, people wanted to replace you.” Meaning top leaders in government and in health care wanted to do away with the broker distribution system. People wanted to get rid of California health agents. They argued that navigators were sufficient, but Jones commented, “I didn’t believe that. I fought to make sure you were part of the exchange.”

Dave Jones and the California Department of Insurance (DOI) made it clear that California health agents would still need to be licensed with the DOI. They would also need to be licensed with Covered California to sell through the exchange. Jones and his team worked overtime, even working on Memorial Day weekend to get agent licensing for Covered California set up right away.

In the end, Jones was right, and it was worth the effort. He said, “Even critics had to admit the lion’s share was sold in Covered California by you, [the health agents and brokers].”