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Small Business Employee Benefits and HR Blog

Insurance Agent FAQs for Registering with the Health Insurance Marketplaces

describe the imageWhen the health insurance marketplaces open on October 1, 2013, U.S. residents will have multiple options for assistance. Insurance agents and brokers are expected to play a critical role in helping qualified people in both the individual and Small Business Health Option Programs (SHOP) exchanges.

Earlier this month, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released agent and broker training details for the federally-run health insurance marketplaces and opened registration and training for agents.

However, as agents went to the site to register, many had issues with the registration process (for example, see the discussion on: CMS Opens Agent Registration and Training for Federal Marketplaces).

In response to these concerns, CMS issued an FAQ on agent registration and training which was distributed by NAHU. Below are the FAQs on marketplace registration, and general background on the role of agents and brokers in the new health insurance marketplaces.

FAQs on Health Insurance Marketplace Training and Registration

May a state participating in a State Partnership Marketplace modify processes and infrastructure for agents and brokers, including for training and registration?

For Federally-facilitated Marketplaces, including State Partnership Marketplaces, CMS will be responsible for registering agents and brokers and conducting Marketplace-related training. Upon completion of the registration and training, agents and brokers will complete a privacy and security agreement and obtain a Federally-facilitated Marketplace user ID.

States will continue to license and regulate agents and brokers, including those who assist consumers in the Marketplace. States will also continue to establish licensure and continuing education requirements for agents and brokers, and may require additional state-specific training as a condition of licensure. However, the Federally-facilitated Marketplace training will not include state-specific training requirements in 2014.

How do I print my curriculum certificate in MLN?

The curriculum certificates typically generate in HTML format. To save a copy to your computer we recommend that you either:

1. Click the “print” link at the top of the certificate screen and select “Microsoft XPS Document Writer” in your print options, or

2. Click the “print” link at the top of the certificate screen and select “Adobe PDF” (if you have Adobe Acrobat installed on your machine), or

3. Use the print screen function and paste the image into a Microsoft Word document. The print screen button (PrtScn) is located on the top row or two of your keyboard—usually near the number key pad on the right of the keyboard. After you have your certificate open, press the print screen button. Nothing obvious will occur. Go to your Word document, right click, and click “paste” in order to paste the image of your certificate into the Word document.

I’m an agent/broker, and I’m trying to set up my account on MLN, to take training. What should I enter in the organization fields?

As you set up your MLN account, you will see that there are two fields displayed that relate to organization information. It is very important that you select your appropriate User Type/User Role before you enter any organization information. As an agent or broker, you should select one of the three agent/broker User Roles, based on the insurance market(s) you wish to serve.

After you select the appropriate agent/broker User Type/User Role, you will see that the first field, labeled  “Organization Type” is automatically grayed-out, because it is not a field that agents/brokers need to complete. You will not be able to enter text in the “Organization Type” field.

The second field, labeled “Organization,” is a required field for agents/brokers. Next to the “Organization” field, please click on the blue text that says “Select”. A new screen will pop up. When that next screen appears, click the gray “Search” button, and the Organization named Marketplace will appear as the only option. Please click the circle to select Marketplace, select “Save,” and you will then be returned to the previous screen, where you can finish creating your MLN account.

I am getting an error message that my NPN needs to be 10 digits, but my NPN isn’t 10 digits. Why won’t the system let me enter my NPN with less than 10 digits?

For most agents/brokers, there are two parts to the registration process for the Federally-facilitated Marketplaces (FFM).

1) Register on the Medicare Learning Network (MLN)®, complete assigned training and exams, and execute the Federally-facilitated Marketplace Agreements. (Available as of 8/1/2013, at https://Marketplace.MedicareLearningNetworkLMS.com.) The NPN in your MLN profile may be 10 digits or less.

2) Create a FFM User Account and complete identity verification through the CMS Enterprise Portal: https://portal.cms.gov/. (Available very soon) The NPN that you enter on this page may be 10 digits or less.Many agents/brokers are attempting to access the second step, which is not yet ready for agents/brokers. If you are seeing an error message about the number of digits that your NPN may be, you are most likely trying to access step #2 prior to its operational launch. Please do not report problems to CMS about the functionality with Step #2, as that step is not yet operational for agents/brokers. (Also, please know that CMS is working to revise the error messages on that page, so that it will state that an NPN is “up to 10 digits.” When that site is functional for agents/brokers, it will enable agents/brokers to enter an NPN that is less than 10 digits, but the initial CMS error message was not worded to reflect that.)

You may continue to monitor the status of step #2 on the CMS website.

Click here to read the FAQs distributed by NAHU.

Role of Insurance Agents and Brokers in the Marketplaces

Certified insurance agents and brokers will work with the marketplace to assist consumers in filling out eligibility forms, comparing different Qualified Healthcare Plans (QHPs), and enrolling them onto a plan through the health insurance exchange.

There will be two ways through which agents and brokers will be able to assist consumers:

  1. Through an issuer-based pathway, which requires the agent and consumer to work through a website sponsored by the insurance issuer

  2. Through a marketplace pathway, which requires the agent and consumer to use the marketplace website

Both pathways will have access to the agent’s or broker’s identifying information, which will be relayed to the issuer in order to facilitate the issuer’s payment to the agent or broker for each enrollment transaction. The agent or broker will be able to make changes through either pathway throughout the year when a consumer’s eligibility changes (i.e. an added dependent).

How Agents Can Register with the Marketplace

All agents and brokers must be registered with the marketplacein order to assist consumers through Federally-Run or State Partnership Marketplaces. The registration will require the agent or broker to:

  1. Answer simple questions to confirm identity

  2. Complete a Marketplace-specific online training course

  3. Agree to comply with federal and state laws, rules, standards and policies, including those related to privacy and security policies, as a condition of working with consumers in the Marketplace

After registration, the agent or broker will receive an active Federally-facilitated Marketplace user ID. This ID and the national producer number (NPN) are going to be necessary in order to be compensated from the issuer.

For a complete overview of the role of agents in the marketplace, including the different pathways and compensation, see: Role of Agents in Health Insurance Marketplaces: HHS Releases Details.

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