With Insurance Exchanges, Who Needs Agents? | KCUR

With Insurance Exchanges, Who Needs Agents?

Topkea, KS – Insurance agents serve as a link between consumers and insurance companies. Some agents are worried that their role may disappear when the nation's new health care law takes full effect in 2014. More from Kansas Public Radio's Bryan Thompson.

2014 is when people who don't have group coverage through large employers will begin buying health insurance through a new web based system of exchanges.

Some have suggested that agents won't be needed in this new system.

Lew Smith is director of Harrington Health, an insurance brockerage in Wichita. He says agents will still be needed to help people navigate a belwildering array of options.

"Is it better to buy through your employer where you have the advantage of having the premiums deducted from your paycheck on a pretax basis? Or is it better to buy through the exchange where you perhaps get a federal subsidy but no pretax advantage? It's not going to be as straightforward as at first it might appear," says Smith.

Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger says their no way her office can address all of the questions that are currently handled by 14,000 health insurance agents in Kansas.

How agents will collect commissions through the exchanges remains to be determined.