Oregon Abandons State-Run Exchange

In what appears to be good news for agents with private exchange websites, the state of Oregon has decided to ditch its state-run insurance exchange and go with Healthcare.gov, the federally-facilitated marketplace operated by the Department of Health and Human Services.

As reported in various news outlets, including the Wall Street Journal and The Oregonian, the board overseeing Cover Oregon, the state’s health insurance exchange, voted unanimously Friday to use the federal government’s technology rather than trying to fix their broken website.

Oregon, which was more supportive of the ACA than most states, had hoped to be a leader in the rollout, but the website never got off the ground. During the entire six-month initial enrollment period, which started October 1st and ended March 31st, the state accepted paper applications from people signing up for guaranteed-issue, subsidy-eligible individual coverage.

So why is this good news for private exchanges? Because HHS has made it clear that states using the Healthcare.gov federally-facilitated marketplace cannot control agent commissions – they’re negotiated between carriers and agents, like they’ve always been – and the states cannot prevent agents from selling subsidized plans through private exchange websites. State-run exchanges, on the other hand, can have a say in both of these matters.

The real question is whether other states will follow suit, and at this point it’s unclear. Oregon certainly wasn’t the only state exchange site that has had problems getting its technology working properly, so it’s possible that some of the other pro-ACA states may decide to abandon ship and go with the HHS-run site, which is working much better now than it did during the first two months.

Again, in any state that uses Healthcare.gov (and some that do not), agents have the ability to send their customers to a private exchange website to shop for insurance. These sites are much more user-friendly than the state or federal sites and are allowed to sell additional products, like life insurance, dental coverage, and supplemental products.

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