OCI’s Mobile ACA Offices: The CoOportunity and Blue Cross Blue Shield Mobile Marketplaces
In 2012, OCI began a new chapter in its development. The Affordable Care Act was being fully implemented and court rulings were keeping it valid. What was once thought of as the “end” of health insurance as we knew it was, in fact, helping OCI grow exponentially. With the advent of the insurance exchange, individual consumers were able to get tax credits to pay for their insurance. At the same time, many of the agents who had worked in the health insurance arena were either leaving the business or moving their practices in new directions. This left a huge void in the delivery system for health insurance.
OCI capitalized on the opportunity by providing in-house split case specialists that brokers could utilize to assist their clients. In addition, the Mobile Marketplace was introduced and crisscrossed the Midwest allowing agents to meet with clients outside of their offices. The Mobile Marketplace was a converted motorhome that served as an office for an agent to use in their communities. It drew attention as it was wrapped in bright colors and, obviously, in small communities, it was eye-catching and drew attention. OCI at one time had two units. One was blue with the signage of Blue Cross Blue Shield. The other was pink with the signage of CoOportunity (a Co-op set up with Government dollars). They were not only innovative but newsworthy as the pink one was displayed in the New York Times along with a story of CoOportunity. The Mobile Marketplace also was a hit with the regional office of HHS as being new and promising.
OCI was getting more recognition in the industry as being cutting edge and thinking outside the box. We were also gaining a reputation in the industry and media for knowledge of the Affordable Care Act. Media outlets were in contact and numerous quotes were used in both print and electronic forms. OCI was getting known for knowing health insurance. This led to additional agents contacting the company for help and OCI saw a large influx of new agents and relationships over the next 5-7 years. As commissions dropped, more agents left or re-positioned their practices and sent even more individuals to the split case team at OCI. As one of the few General Agents for CoOportunity, agents were turning to OCI for assistance and growth was all but assured. Then it happened.
In December of 2014, right before the end of open enrollment and right before the holidays, CoOportunity announced that they were leaving the marketplace at the end of the year and filing for bankruptcy. This was devasting news as we were their number one producing General Agent and had a significant amount of business with them. The news meant that all the business with them had to move within the next six months to different carriers. Even more troubling was that because of bankruptcy, all commissions and overrides were stopping. The OCI block was large and the amount owed to it was quite a lot. This created some anxiety for all but like any door that shuts, that same door allows you to enter. Because of the change, the market was in disarray and brokers were scrambling. Some decided to work with us just for efficiency. Others joined simply because they realized being on an island by themselves wasn’t as much fun as it used to be. The other thing that happened was we made numerous other carriers very happy. We moved nearly all the business and began a period of significant growth. When bad things happen, those with perseverance will always come out on top.
The OCI brand continued to develop, and the team was growing quickly. In 2015, it was apparent that we were outgrowing our location. We were putting three or four people in an office that had been designed for one. The decision was made to find a new location. Should we lease or build became the big question. We finally decided that we would build a new facility. The unfortunate part was that it takes time to build, and we were packing people on top of each other. How fast could we make a move?
Next: The building, the move, and the epidemic.