Insurance agents have been Covered California’s foot soldiers, helping individuals and businesses navigate the chaos of the insurance exchange’s early days.
And now, because of some early kinks in the marketplace, those agents have become the walking wounded: Agents who helped small companies purchase coverage that began early last year through Covered California’s small-business marketplace still haven’t received their commissions.
Robert Hawkes, vice president of Polenzani Benefits and Insurance in Pasadena, signed up one client whose policies started around February of last year. He still hasn’t seen his commission check.
“We’ve been calling and still haven’t been paid,” he said.
The commissions are a percentage of their clients’ monthly premiums, and the checks need to be approved by the exchange and then cut by the state, explained Dede Kennedy-Simington, president of the Los Angeles Association of Health Underwriters. Kennedy-Simington is also vice president of Genesis Financial & Insurance Services, working out of its Pasadena office. She signed up three small businesses for coverage on the exchange, but she still hasn’t seen her commissions.
“Only a broker with a reasonable amount of existing business can float that,” she said. “A new agent who’s just starting and that’s the sole source of income can’t wait that long.”
Kennedy-Simington said the issue is that Covered California’s small-business marketplace had to switch to a new software platform last year, and commissions from plans that started before the switch seem to have fallen through the cracks.
Covered California spokesman Larry Hicks said calculating commissions on these plans is currently a more manual process than expected due to a shift in reporting systems that took place last summer.
Hicks also said the insurance exchange takes the delays seriously and that payments should start going out by the end of next month.
Still, Kennedy-Simington said agents have long memories and it might be tough to woo them back to this portion of the marketplace.
When Alice Cheng took the reins of Beverly Hospital last year as interim chief executive, the nonprofit Montebello medical center had been losing an average of $3.5 million a year.
But Beverly has since swung to a profit and its board this month named Cheng chief executive.
Cheng, who previously served as Beverly’s chief operating officer and vice president of business development, has been working in L.A.’s health care industry for more than two decades but ended up in the sector totally by chance.
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