Health Advice



Rising complaints of unauthorized Obamacare plan-switching and sign-ups trigger concern

Julie Appleby, KFF Health News, KFF Health News on

Published in Health & Fitness

Federal and state regulators aren’t doing enough to stop the growing problem of rogue health insurance brokers making unauthorized policy switches for Affordable Care Act policyholders, say consumers, agents, nonprofit enrollee assistance groups, and other insurance experts.

“We think it’s urgent and it requires a lot more attention and resources,” said Jennifer Sullivan, director of health coverage access for the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which oversees the ACA, “has acknowledged the issue,” said former Oklahoma insurance commissioner John Doak. “But it appears their response is inadequate.”

The reactions follow a KFF Health News article outlining how licensed brokers’ easy access to policyholder information on has led unscrupulous agents to switch people’s policies without express permission. Those agents can then take the commission that comes with signing a new customer. Dozens of people and insurance brokers responded to the earlier report recounting similar situations.

Some switched policyholders end up in plans that don’t include their doctors or the medications they regularly take, or come with higher deductibles than their original coverage choice. If their income or eligibility for premium tax credits is misrepresented, some people end up owing back taxes.

Agents whose clients have been affected say the switches ramped up last year and are continuing into 2024, although quantifying the problem continues to be difficult. The problem seems concentrated on the federal website, which is the marketplace where people in 32 states buy ACA plans, which are also known as Obamacare. CMS declined to provide the number of complaints that have been filed.


Even so, CMS representatives said during a December committee meeting of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners that they were “acutely aware” of the problem and were working on solutions.

A similar NAIC gathering was held in March. During those meetings, state regulators urged CMS officials to look for unauthorized switches, rather than reacting only to filed complaints. State regulators also want the agency to tell them sooner about agents or brokers under investigation, and to be provided with the number of affected consumers in their regions.

In an April 4 written statement to KFF Health News, Jeff Wu, acting director of CMS’ Center for Consumer Information & Insurance Oversight, pointed to the agency’s sharp prohibition on agents enrolling people or changing their plans without getting written or recorded consent, and said his team is “analyzing potential additional system controls to block unauthorized or fraudulent activity.”

It is also working with state regulators and large broker agencies, Wu wrote, to identify “the most effective ways to root out bad actors.” He also said more agents and brokers are being suspended or terminated from


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©2024 KFF Health News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


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