State Has Figured Out That Insurance Agents Can Sell Obamacare

When Governor Jim Edgar passed Kids Care in the mid-1990’s, I remember having lunch in the legislators’ dining room and telling her if he wanted it to really succeed, he would let insurance agents sell it.

Instead, Edgar and Blagojevich after him with his All Kids (which just allowed illegal aliens to access the same program Edgar instituted) relied on Public Health Departments.

Maybe you’ll think my view funny, but it seems to me someone with a profit motive will outdo one without one every time.

The McHenry County Board recently had a fight over whether to accept about a half million grant to pass out to various not-for-profit organizations to hire “navigators.”

The role navigators seem to play is that of an insurance agent, but without as much training.

Guess what?

Obamacare ins agents Trib 1-16-15

A Democratic Administration shows that it has some idea of the potential of private enterprise.

The Chicago Tribune reported Friday that state government is going to give insurance agents, real “salespeople,” as a sub-headline says.

Wheeler, Chuck looking at camera put on rt L of WVBefore he was sworn in as a County Board member, insurance agent Chuck Wheeler argued against approval of the navigator grant.

His argument made sense to me, but the Board reverses course, having rejected it the first time around, and approved the grant.

One paragraph from the Tribune story explains why insurance agents will do a better job than navigators:

“Unlike navigators, insurance agents can ask people specific questions about their health and then recommend a specific plan or insurer.  Insurers pay agents on commissions sold, usually a percentage of the premiums.”

Of course, those outside of the business sector say that will result in people being oversold, just so the agent can make a bigger commission.

The article notes that agents get no commission for referring people to Medicaid.

Poor judgment seems to have been exercised by the Pat Quinn Administration as far as Obamacare enrollment goes.

The Tribune reports only about 25% of those eligible have signed up.  Of those eligible, about 63% are employed.


State Has Figured Out That Insurance Agents Can Sell Obamacare — 10 Comments

  1. Two observations:

    “… insurance agent Chuck Wheeler argued against approval of the navigator grant…”

    What a surprise. I can simply go to a health insurance(or car insurance, or motorcycle insurance, or home insurance…) provider’s website and obtain insurance without ever dealing with an agent in an office- and having to subsidize that agent and that office.

    Chuck may want to look for a new career in the typewriter ribbon sales, block ice delivery, buggy whip braiding, or oakum manufacturing sectors.

    As to this comment, Cal:

    “…Poor judgment seems to have been exercised by the Pat Quinn Administration as far as Obamacare enrollment goes.

    The Tribune reports only about 25% of those eligible have signed up. Of those eligible, about 63% are employed…”

    Last time I checked, the governor isn’t the boss of the citizens of Illinois. The governor has no power to force anyone to sign up. Government can ask you to buy health insurance, to stop smoking, to stop eating so much food that you turn into a 600 lb. shut-in parasite devouring Social Security- and if you don’t, you’ll pay a penalty of some kind. An IRS penalty, cigarette taxes and small cell carcinoma, or diabetes and amputated limbs.

    Feel free to blame small cell carcinoma and diabetes on the governor, Cal. My treat.

    And, considering that, if I am to believe the things you have written and said, could you possibly locate a crappier photo of Chuck Wheeler anywhere else on the planet? I don’t think so.

  2. Shame on Kurtz and everyone who attended the meeting which coerced the Board to vote in favor of wasting taxpayer dollars.

    Kudos to Evertsen for leading the vote against this waste of hard earned taxpayer dollars!!

    Of course if the Board members actually had a spine they would NOT have changed their votes!


    I’m writing in response to Debbie Chirikos’ letter regarding Ersel Schuster’s guest opinion piece about the revote to fund Affordable Care Act navigators (“Column filled with irony,” Dec. 4).

    I would like Debbie to elaborate as to why Ersel’s position on caseworkers performing the navigator role is “ludicrous on the face of it”.

    Furthermore, Chirikos’ opinion that an insurance agent would only sell a policy that makes (the salesperson) the most money is “careless and naïve.”

    Would an insurance agent sell a policy that he knows the customer cannot afford, thus jeopardizing the same commissions Chirikos apparently feels are inherently evil?

    In his book, “For a New Liberty,” libertarian Murray Rothbard wrote:

    “The ‘classical’ view of the social worker was to help people to help themselves, to aid people in achieving and maintaining their independence and to stand on their own feet. For welfare clients, the aim of social workers used to be to help them get off the welfare rolls as quickly as possible. But now social workers have the opposite aim: To try to get as many people on welfare as possible, to advertise and proclaim their ‘rights.’”

    In her piece, Schuster offers alternatives to hiring navigators in an effort to control government size and spending, but as a self-proclaimed political “progressive” with 35 years in the field, Chirikos would rather ridicule than present options or fresh ideas.

    Is this because the classical role of a social worker has long been lost in liberal American society today?

    Kelly Liebmann

    Wonder Lake

  4. Knowledge voter/anonymous coward- you must be unaware of the fact that even if the County Board successfully voted down that grant money, any perceived ‘waste’ would continue- the federal money is simply reallocated to the remaining Illinois counties.

    Turning down those funds as a protest against the ACA is about as practical and useful as driving a pencil into your own eye socket.

  5. Thanks for posting this article Cal!

    I am glad we have a few board members that understand that all of this is NOT free and has to come from tax payers.

    Any chance to expand the government seems to be the norm now and it is a shame people do not understand this.

  6. I find it a bit strange that Chuck Wheeler gets criticized for advancing his way of making a living, but the navigators and their bosses (whose agencies get an administrative cut) are not acting in their self-interest.

  7. John Lovaas: You may vote Republican in primaries but you obviously do not support the Republican platform for smaller government.

    You are representative of the problem with government in our country.

    I do believe in smaller government and do not support the use of ‘grants’ which result in a bloated bureaucracy due to at least fifteen cents of every dollar being spent on local public sector employment!

    In the case of the grant for the ‘navigators’, every penny was used to increase public sector employment while, as posted, elsewhere the private sector was already providing the service.

    Your comment: “the federal money is simply reallocated to the remaining Illinois counties” indicates you fully support the ‘lemming’ mind.

    Insofar as using an anonymous handle, you are fully entitled to do the same.

  8. My opposition to the grant was pretty simple if you like, you can purchase your insurance from a website, or a Navigator, but it costs you nothing more to purchase your coverage from a live real life insurance agent who will do the following at no additional expense.

    1. Figure out what works best for your insurance situation and pointing out why purchasing something which appears to be less may not work out for you. A Navigator by law is not supposed to make a recommendation they are only to assist you in navigating the website.

    2. The insurance agent is licensed and registered professional with the state of Illinois and will be there not just for the initial purchase of your coverage but well afterwards when you need him/her most..that being when you have a claim or a question about your coverage. If you don’t mind holding on the telephone for countless s hours wailing for someone from .gov to maybe answer your question you are right you should purchase your coverage from a website.

    3. Navigators or federal websites do not carry errors and omission coverage so if you have a problem you have no one to blame or sue but the website (try suing the federal government), the navigator, (who is gone because they are now not being paid anymore because the grant has expired or they decided to do some occupation) or the County because the Navigator was hired by a grant the county administered to only help you navigate the website. Well actually as far fetched as it sounds to a high priced attorney that might be an option. The County does have insurance and deep pockets so that’s right they can sue you and me. And remember only a licensed insurance agent can give you advise on an insurance question and we all know that Navigator just assist you in navigating the website…anything else would be illegal.

    That being said why wouldn’t you want to use a licensed professional who will be there in your time of need who has a vested interest in your satisfaction.

    And you do so without putting yourself or the County at risk and at the same time promote local business in the community.

    We cost no more and can save you a great deal of money and a major headache.

  9. Ah, but how willing were the agents to take this on before the initial enrollments, etc., showed that there was work to be had in getting previously-uninsured people insurance?

    How many of them were willing to serve the “hard cases”, which many of the previously uninsured were/are, until the growth in business that the new enrollments provide was actually shown?

    And how many of them in our county can help the Spanish-speaking population?

    In my opinion, there is a role for both ways for people to acquire insurance and the need for navigators lessens as the insurance industry learns to deal with the ACA.

  10. Here are some examples from the last week of people I dealt with.

    Husband/Wife, 4 kids from former marriages on ex’s health insurance policies.

    Was on Gold plan for themselves because they didn’t realize that if they listed their children (even though they didn’t need coverage), they would qualify for a better subsidy.

    Mom has stage 4 breast cancer.

    I moved them to the largest national network plan, their deductible/max out of pocket went from $3250 to $500 and they pay less premium at a critical time. Today, person takes activella (brand).

    We looked at the Rx coverage of each insurance carrier to see who would cover the brand name drug (not all do).

    I also shared a website where they can get it for half price (run by a real person living in Arlington Heights).

    Next was a person who is offered coverage at work that meets minimum value, BUT she pays more than 9.5% of her income towards coverage.

    This means she can go into the exchange and receive a subsidy, so she is paying $157 instead of $736/month.

    The new plan has a $750 deductible BTW.

    There is a newer company that has “preferred” plans.

    Doctors can now be either in network, out of network, or in the “Preferred” network with different pricing for each.

    If a person doesn’t understand the difference, their doctor’s visit can go from $25 to 40% after deductible.

    These are why agents are valuable resources.

    Experience means putting the client on the plan at the right place that will take care of them.

    Insurance should just work when you have a major life crisis.

    It’s about doing the right thing, not about the money.

    Money follows those who do the right thing.

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