Christine Stuart photo
Access Health CEO James Wadleigh (Christine Stuart photo)

Access Health CT’s board of directors pressed officials Thursday to find out whether the two remaining insurance carriers participating in the exchange will continue to pay broker commissions.

Access Health CEO James Wadleigh said he’s been unable to ascertain whether they will continue to pay commissions to brokers, who direct about 40 percent of the business in the individual marketplace on the exchange.

“Access Health is unaware at this time if Connecticut carriers will continue to pay broker commissions,” Wadleigh told Access Health CT’s board of directors Thursday.

Both Anthem and ConnectiCare, the two remaining insurance companies participating in the exchange in 2017, have submitted rate increases requests. Anthem’s request seeks to eliminate broker commissions for business on the exchange and ConnectiCare’s request is vague.

Brokers “are the only resource consumers have to pick the best plan for their needs,” Wadleigh said.

John Calkins, a member of the Connecticut chapter of the National Association of Health Underwriters, said while they like to be able to help consumers find the best plan, “brokers have to eat and they have to earn a living.”

He said if one carrier is offering a commission and the other one isn’t, then it sets up a “tenuous set of circumstances.”

It’s an issue not only for Connecticut, but for other state exchanges.

California has told insurance carriers if they want to be on the exchange they have to pay a commission, however, Wadleigh doesn’t believe Connecticut has as much market power. In fact, the number of carriers on the exchange has dropped from four down to two over the past few weeks.

Wadleigh said he’s spoken to Insurance Department Commissioner Katharine Wade, who will help finalize the rate requests for the companies, and he doesn’t believe she feels you have to be a broker to recommend a plan.

Access Health is preparing for a decision by the carriers not to pay broker commissions. Wadleigh said if that ends up happening, Access Health will need to hire additional staff to help consumers pick the best plan for their health needs.

Paul Philpott, principal consultant with Quo Vadis Advisors LLC and an Access Health board member, said Access Health really has to press the carriers to find out about their intentions.

Wade said the rate requests are under active review so there’s very little she can say about what will happen. She said the filings are on the Insurance Department’s website for review.

Wadleigh said he’s had conversations with each of the carriers about his desire to see them continue paying broker commissions. He said he understands the carriers are trying to push the business right into their own call centers, but eliminating an objective broker as part of that process is not beneficial for consumers.

He said he knows it’s a trend nationally where most insurance carriers are eliminating broker commissions for individual marketplace business on the exchange. They are still offering commissions for business off the exchange and smaller commissions for group business both on and off the exchange.

There are about 150,000 Connecticut residents with plans off the exchange. As of June, there were about 103,408 individuals enrolled with private insurance carriers on the exchange.