(Tallahassee) – A recent meeting of the Florida Association of Health Insurance Underwriters provided an opportunity for Florida Health Choices (FHC) to gather input and feedback from insurance agents from across the state. Focus group sessions conducted by the Institute for Child Health Policy (ICHP) produced some key recommendations for improving the FHC Marketplace by addressing misperceptions, removing barriers to participation, and improving collaboration with agents.

“We know the FHC Marketplace is more likely to succeed when agents are involved. Agents boost employer and employee involvement and provide vital support, such as helping employees with plan selection,” said Aaron Bean, Chair of the Florida Health Choices Board. “Their insights into the marketplace can help guide us toward a better product and we are committed to incorporating their recommendations.”

The FHC Marketplace is a central web portal where small business owners with four to 50 eligible employees can choose from a variety of health plans that best meets their needs. The ICHP focus groups found that there are a number of misconceptions that can be addressed.

“Based on the input from focus group participants we are developing an agent training curriculum,” Bean said. “Improving our outreach and education efforts is a priority.”

Focus group participants said the ability for employers and employees to compare prices would be a significant benefit, and had the potential to significantly decrease their own workload. But they were concerned about the potential impact on agent relationships with insurance carriers and employers, and recommended use of agent branding as a way to maintain personal relationships and strengthen the FHC Marketplace.

The participation of agents in the planning process goes far beyond the focus groups. FHC Agent Steering Committee members have been providing input since the inception of the program, and many more have participated through webinars, beta testing, and an online open house. More than 160 agents have already signed up to do business in the Insurance Marketplace.

Phase 1 of the program will give small business owners a place to shop for a variety of health insurance products, including dental care. Phase two rolls out in 2013, expanding the program to eligible individuals and increasing the number, and types of plans and services offered.

To access the full report use this link:
http://www.myfloridachoices.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/FHC_RevisedFGreport_11.1.12_SMAjblEAS.pdf