UnitedHealthcare To Stop Paying Agents For Selling ACA Health Plans
UnitedHealthcare, the nation's largest health insurer, has taken its biggest step toward discouraging enrollments under the Affordable Care Act.
United said it intends to stop paying sales commissions to agents who sell the company's health policies under the ACA, the federal insurance program that provides financial subsidies to attract uninsured people and low-income applicants.
United's new corporate policy, emailed to insurance agents Friday, will go into effect Jan. 1 in North Carolina and most of the two dozen states where United sells ACA coverage. That means that thousands of insurance agents nationwide won't be paid for enrolling customers in ACA policies, a process that can require several hours of consultation to compare out-of-pocket costs, drug prices and provider networks between multiple health plans.
Agents who sold a heavy volume of United policies will lose thousands of dollars a year in commissions. The surprise announcement comes on the heels of a previous decision, announced three weeks ago, to slash agent sales commissions from as high as 10 percent to 2 percent, a move that agents decried at the time as an 80-percent pay cut.
"The only time I've seen this before is when insurers are required by government to sell a product they do not particularly want to sell," said Wake Forest University law professor Mark Hall. "Here, this seems consistent with an insurer that no longer wants to sell through the exchanges ... but is not allowed to withdraw immediately, so it's pushing its commissions to zero until it's allowed to exit."
Agents say United's decision puts them in an bind because they will have no incentive to steer customers to United plans, even if those plans are the best choices. Several agents said Monday that United offers some of the best-priced plans in North Carolina, where it operates in 77 counties.