Rollout of Federal Health Exchange “Going to be Bumpy”, According to Insurance Commissioner Nickel

State Insurance Commissioner: “My sense is that the rollout of the exchange beginning on October 1st is going to be bumpy.”

August 26, 2013

[Madison, Wisc…] The Wheeler Report spoke with Ted Nickel, Wisconsin’s Commissioner on Insurance, recently about the insurance industry in Wisconsin. A particular question focused on the the health insurance exchanges setup by the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. Nickel told the Wheeler report that the rollout of the exchange “is going to be bumpy.”

A portion of that interview is below:

The Wheeler Report Staff: What is OCI’s role in the federal health insurance exchanges? Will you have to monitor the exchanges? The navigators?

Nickel: The Affordable Care Act provided states with a variety of choices. Wisconsin chose to let the federal government operate an exchange here in Wisconsin. Our role, whether with the 13 insurance companies participating on the exchange or the others off the exchange, is to continue to do what we have always done. We will monitor their solvency and continue to provide consumer protection. We want to make sure consumers have as much choice as possible.

We also want to make sure that the companies operating here are behaving themselves. My sense is that the rollout of the exchange beginning on October 1st is going to be bumpy. We will be here to help people with their questions. Even though the feds have the obligation to receive and deal with questions and complaints that will be coming, I think the first place people will turn it either to their personal agent or to OCI. We will be right in the middle of making sure consumers are taken care of.

In terms of the navigator piece our focus will really be on consumer protection. We are very concerned about consumers as this rolls out. In the past there were agents, brokers, and customer service representatives. Now with the affordable care act we have navigators, certified application counselors (CAC), and other individuals assisting in helping people know what their choices are. We are concerned and want to make sure that consumers are not being taken advantage of.

It would be very easy for someone to make up their own card, say that they are a navigator, and collect information from individuals providing an opportunity for identity theft and other crimes. It is scary to think about what an unscrupulous person might be able to do. So our role is to make sure that navigators are licensed, have proper training, and they are financially responsible for their actions. I think generally the people who want to become navigators and CAC’s want to do the right thing. They want to help people move from the uninsured roll to perhaps commercial insurance for the very first time or from Medicaid or BadgerCare to a commercial policy purchased on the exchange.

People need to remember this is insurance and insurance can be complicated. We have been working feverishly to make sure that there is education and training available to those who want to help. We have been working with agents and a variety of other groups out there to make sure that they know what we are doing and how to work with us.