October 23, 2013 09:20 ET

Health Insurance Agents Identify Problems, Issues for Affordable Care Act; Lower-Income Americans Seeking Subsidies Particularly Affected

NAIFA Members Available for Comment

FALLS CHURCH, VA and WASHINGTON, DC--(Marketwired - October 23, 2013) - While technical defects have prevented millions of consumers from enrolling in the online health insurance marketplace, members of the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors say consumers' lack of experience and knowledge in choosing a health plan poses an even greater challenge.

"The inability to log on to is just the first obstacle consumers face in their efforts to purchase health insurance," said NAIFA President John F. Nichols, MSM, CLU. "Consumers need the expertise that brokers and agents provide in helping them choose a plan that meets their unique needs. We want to be a solution by helping consumers make the right choice on the exchanges. Coverage does not begin and end with enrollment."

Nichols said consumers need assistance in three major areas:

  • Comprehension: Consumers do not understand the various medical plans currently offered on the state and federally-facilitated marketplaces.
  • Pricing: Consumers are unable to compare the pricing of the plans and determine which plan is best for them and their families.
  • Application process: Consumers need assistance completing the complex application for coverage.

Subsidies for coverage should be available both inside and outside the exchanges

While millions of Americans have had major difficulties logging on to the site, there is an even greater flaw in the ACA that affects poorer Americans, says NAIFA President John Nichols: Government subsidies are available only to those purchasing plans through the federal and state exchanges, which limits the options of lower income consumers who cannot consider competitive plans outside the exchanges.

"Those hurt most by the glitches are the most needy," Nichols said. "Individuals who aren't eligible for subsidies can easily obtain coverage outside the exchanges on the existing market, which isn't filled with glitches and delays. Unfortunately, lower income Americans can only use their subsidies for coverage purchased inside the exchanges. This is one of the reasons NAIFA argued that the subsidies should be available both inside and outside the exchanges."

Even if the government can get the exchanges running more smoothly, it still makes sense for consumers to have the freedom to use their subsidies on plans purchased outside the exchanges, Nichols said.

"An off-exchange plan may provide more suitable coverage for a particular individual or family, or it may be cheaper than exchange-base alternatives," Nichols added. "Yet consumers, if they need to take advantage of the subsidies, are locked into the limited choices on the exchanges."

NAIFA members and NAIFA President John Nichols are available for further comment. Please call Mark Briscoe at 703.770.8111; or Sheila Owens at 703.770.8112; For more on the ACA and NAIFA, please visit NAIFA also released a survey on members' participation in ACA training and their role in assisting consumers.

About NAIFA: Founded in 1890 as The National Association of Life Underwriters (NALU), NAIFA is one of the nation's oldest and largest associations representing the interests of insurance professionals from every Congressional district in the United States. NAIFA members assist consumers by focusing their practices on one or more of the following: life insurance and annuities, health insurance and employee benefits, multiline, and financial advising and investments. NAIFA's mission is to advocate for a positive legislative and regulatory environment, enhance business and professional skills, and promote the ethical conduct of its members.

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