In less than a week, enrollment begins for insurance under the Affordable Care Act. A lot of people will have questions about the process. Who can help?
Jefferson Rose works for WithinReach, a community outreach program. Rose is what they call an “in-person assister,” or IPA, to help people navigate the Washington Health Benefit Exchange.
“I would say most people… do not know what’s happening,” said Rose. “Even if they are eligible for free coverage.”
Another group helping with enrollment is insurance agents and brokers.
Charles Craig of Sound Benefit Services in Lynnwood is one of the brokers who has gone through training and certification by the state to sell plans on the Exchange.
“With the scope and the knowledge we have about the plans,” said Craig. “How they’re designed, the networks, the ins and outs of the exchange - I think we’re pretty uniquely positioned to advise a client.”
There are some basic differences between IPAs and brokers to be aware of.
Most in-person assisters have a background in community outreach. They have been trained and certified to help navigate the exchange process. By law, they must be impartial and cannot recommend a particular plan. They receive no commissions and their service is free.
For the state certified brokers, their expertise is selling insurance. They have also been trained and certified to sell insurance on the Exchange. They can recommend what plan they think is better for you. They do receive commissions from insurance carriers, but their services are free for the customer.
Some advisors familiar with the process say clients who have questions about the details of particular plans may need a broker. But for those getting insurance for the first time, or qualify for a full subsidy, an assister may be more suitable.
Broker and IPAs can be found in most communities throughout the state.
The Washington State Health Benefit Exchange says it’s important to make sure your broker or IPA is certified through the Exchange, in order to receive any federal subsidy.
The state has more information about the role of IPA’s on the Washington Health Benefit Exchange, including the lead In-Person Assister organization in each county.
Find more information on reaching customer support, finding a broker or finding a navigator on Washington Healthplanfinder site.