ObamaCare’s Open Enrollment has ended for the 2016 policy year and you are no longer permitted to apply for a health insurance policy until November 1, 2016. If you did not apply yet, you may be fined by the US government for not having health insurance for at least nine months of 2016. The fine is there to make you buy a health insurance plan, and that fine can be quite substantial if your income is high.
However, you do not have to wait for the next Open Enrollment season to begin if you have what the government’s phrase-coiners call an SEP, or Special Enrollment Period. If you lose your employer-sponsored group health insurance plan (including COBRA), get married or divorced, have a baby, get out of jail (and several more “life events”), you have 60 days from the date of the SEP to apply for another policy from any Arizona health insurance carrier of your choice.
But here is the problem you may encounter when applying for a policy outside of the Open Enrollment period: Arizona health insurance carriers are sending us mail telling us they will no longer pay commissions to brokers that market their plans now that Open Enrollment has ended. One major health insurance provider — Cigna — wrote us this morning, saying, “Please be aware that any medical sales submitted after January 31st during the Special Enrollment Period (SEP) will earn 0% commission.” Lehrman Group has already received notices from Humana and United HealthCare, informing us that commissions will not be paid to brokers. Anyone with common sense should come away with the understanding that Cigna, Humana and United HealthCare do not want people buying their health insurance plans, at least not in the state of Arizona.
Health insurance brokers, while always trying to do what is best for their clients, must still be able to be paid for the services they provide. If you want to buy a Cigna health insurance plan, and how would you know you WANTED to buy a Cigna policy, did someone tell you about it? There certainly will not be any Arizona health insurance brokers saying good things about Cigna plans — who will sell it to you now that Open Enrollment has ended? You will be forced to go to healthCare.gov to purchase a policy from one of the carriers that refuse to pay commissions, and if you have any experience with the government’s health insurance web site, you know how frustrating and confusing that will be. You’ll be presented with hundreds of options, and with no one to guide you, how will you know which is the smartest plan for you or your family?
Cigna, Humana and United HealthCare represent almost one-half of all health insurance carriers that offer policies in Phoenix and the all other Maricopa county communities. With one half of all carriers telling brokers “we do not want you to sell our plans,” that leaves Arizona residents who are trying to find the smartest health insurance plan for themselves or their families out of luck. The majority of people that have called Lehrman Group during the past three months (during Open Enrollment) who purchased a previous health insurance plan via the Marketplace for the 2015 policy year have told us they were very unhappy with what they purchased and couldn’t wait to make a change.
At Lehrman Group, we are under the obvious assumption that these three health insurance companies do not want anyone buying their plans. Why else would they make it so hard for you to purchase one of these plans? We also think this is one of the ulterior motives of ObamaCare — people will end up so frustrated and angry that they will demand the US government create a nationalized health insurance plan that will be the only option available. If you hate ObamaCare now, just wait until you have NO choices.