We've all seen them. Web sites touting themselves as the "California Health Exchange" or something similar. Some provide a disclosure (usually at the bottom and often in small type) that the site is, in fact, an insurance agent's web site and is in no way actually affiliated with the 'real' CA Health Benefits Exchange. Lately I have seen a couple with no disclosure at all.
Well, that party is now over in California and those of us who have been following the HBEX (Health Benefits Exchange) knew it was coming.
On September 30, 2012, Governor Brown signed into law California Assembly Bill 1761. The bill, now law, prohibits agents (and other entities) from claiming any affiliation with the CA HBEX as well as any advertising including social media that makes any such claim. It is now against the law in California for an agent or agency to pretend that they are somehow representing or affiliated with the California Health Exchange.
From AB 1761:
(j) Holding oneself out as representing, constituting, or
otherwise providing services on behalf of the California Health
Benefit Exchange established pursuant to Section 100500 of the
Government Code without a valid agreement with the California Health
Benefit Exchange to engage in those activities.
This bill would prohibit an individual or entity from holding
himself, herself, or itself out as representing, constituting, or
otherwise providing services on behalf of the Exchange unless that
individual or entity has a valid agreement with the Exchange to
engage in those activities. The bill would specify that it is an
unfair business practice for health care service plans, entities
engaged in the solicitation of health care service plan contracts,
and persons engaged in the business of insurance to violate this
provision. Because a willful violation of the provisions governing
health care service plans is a crime, the bill would impose a
state-mandated local program. [emphasis is mine]
I expect that agent marketing guidance will be forthcoming from the HBEX or the Insurers next year as we prepare for the initial open enrollment beginning October 1, 2013. As of today, we have not received any information on either certifying for the exchange or what specific agent marketing will be allowed. All agents selling HBEX plans to the public will be required to be certified with the CA exchange prior to engaging in any sales activity.
In the meantime, if you run across any sites that are not the official exchange web site, you know that the site is not approved and that the agent is committing a crime by pretending to be or be affiliated with the CA HBEX.
As always, for specific health insurance information please visit my web site.