45 CFR § 155.225 - Certified application counselors.

§ 155.225 Certified application counselors.

(a) General rule. The Exchange must have a certified application counselor program that complies with the requirements of this section.

(b) Exchange designation of organizations.

(1) The Exchange may designate an organization, including an organization designated as a Medicaid certified application counselor organization by a state Medicaid or CHIP agency, to certify its staff members or volunteers to act as certified application counselors who perform the duties and meet the standards and requirements for certified application counselors in this section if the organization -

(i) Enters into an agreement with the Exchange to comply with the standards and requirements of this section including the standards specified in paragraphs (d)(3) through (d)(5) of this section; and

(ii) Maintains a registration process and method to track the performance of certified application counselors.

(iii) Provides data and information to the Exchange regarding the number and performance of its certified application counselors and regarding the consumer assistance provided by its certified application counselors, upon request, in the form and manner specified by the Exchange. Beginning for the third quarter of calendar year 2017, in a Federally-facilitated Exchange, organizations designated by the Exchange must submit quarterly reports that include, at a minimum, data regarding the number of individuals who have been certified by the organization; the total number of consumers who received application and enrollment assistance from the organization; and of that number, the number of consumers who received assistance in applying for and selecting a QHP, enrolling in a QHP, or applying for Medicaid or CHIP.

(2) An Exchange may comply with paragraph (a) of this section either by -

(i) Designating organizations to certify application counselors in compliance with paragraph (b)(1) of this section;

(ii) Directly certifying individual staff members or volunteers of Exchange designated organizations to provide the duties specified in paragraph (c) of this section if the staff member or volunteer enters into an agreement with the Exchange to comply with the standards and requirements for certified application counselors in this section; or

(iii) A combination of paragraphs (b)(2)(i) and (b)(2)(ii) of this section.

(3) In a Federally-facilitated Exchange, no individual or entity shall be ineligible to operate as a certified application counselor or organization designated by the Exchange under paragraph (b) of this section solely because its principal place of business is outside of the Exchange service area.

(c) Duties. Certified application counselors are certified to -

(1) Provide information to individuals and employees about the full range of QHP options and insurance affordability programs for which they are eligible, which includes: providing fair, impartial, and accurate information that assists consumers with submitting the eligibility application; clarifying the distinctions among health coverage options, including QHPs; and helping consumers make informed decisions during the health coverage selection process;

(2) Assist individuals and employees to apply for coverage in a QHP through the Exchange and for insurance affordability programs; and

(3) Help to facilitate enrollment of eligible individuals in QHPs and insurance affordability programs.

(d) Standards of certification. An organization designated by the Exchange to provide certified application counselor services, or an Exchange that chooses to certify individual staff members or volunteers directly under paragraph (b)(2)(ii) of this section, may certify a staff member or volunteer to perform the duties specified in paragraph (c) of this section only if the staff member or volunteer -

(1) Completes Exchange approved training regarding QHP options, insurance affordability programs, eligibility, and benefits rules and regulations governing all insurance affordability programs operated in the state, as implemented in the state, and completes and achieves a passing score on all Exchange approved certification examinations, prior to functioning as a certified application counselor;

(2) Discloses to the organization, or to the Exchange if directly certified by an Exchange, and potential applicants any relationships the certified application counselor or sponsoring agency has with QHPs or insurance affordability programs, or other potential conflicts of interest;

(3) Complies with the Exchange's privacy and security standards adopted consistent with § 155.260, and applicable authentication and data security standards;

(4) Agrees to act in the best interest of the applicants assisted;

(5) Either directly or through an appropriate referral to a Navigator or non-Navigator assistance personnel authorized under § 155.205(d) and (e) or § 155.210, or to the Exchange call center authorized under § 155.205(a), provides information in a manner that is accessible to individuals with disabilities, as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. 12101 et seq. and section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, as amended, 29 U.S.C. 794;

(6) Enters into an agreement with the organization regarding compliance with the standards specified in paragraphs (d), (f), and (g) of this section;

(7) Is recertified on at least an annual basis after successfully completing recertification training as required by the Exchange; and

(8) Meets any licensing, certification, or other standards prescribed by the State or Exchange, if applicable, so long as such standards do not prevent the application of the provisions of title I of the Affordable Care Act. Standards that would prevent the application of the provisions of title I of the Affordable Care Act include but are not limited to the following:

(i) Requirements that certified application counselors refer consumers to other entities not required to provide fair, accurate, and impartial information.

(ii) Requirements that would prevent certified application counselors from providing services to all persons to whom they are required to provide assistance.

(iii) Requirements that would prevent certified application counselors from providing advice regarding substantive benefits or comparative benefits of different health plans.

(iv) Imposing standards that would, as applied or as implemented in a State, prevent the application of Federal requirements applicable to certified application counselors, to an organization designated by the Exchange under paragraph (b) of this section, or to the Exchange's implementation of the certified application counselor program.

(e) Withdrawal of designation and certification.

(1) The Exchange must establish procedures to withdraw designation from a particular organization it has designated under paragraph (b) of this section, when it finds noncompliance with the terms and conditions of the organization's agreement required by paragraph (b) of this section.

(2) If an Exchange directly certifies organizations' individual certified application counselors, it must establish procedures to withdraw certification from individual certified application counselors when it finds noncompliance with the requirements of this section.

(3) An organization designated by the Exchange under paragraph (b) of this section must establish procedures to withdraw certification from individual certified application counselors when it finds noncompliance with the requirements of this section.

(f) Availability of information; authorization. An organization designated by the Exchange under paragraph (b) of this section, or, if applicable, an Exchange that certifies staff members or volunteers of organizations directly must establish procedures to ensure that applicants -

(1) Are informed, prior to receiving assistance, of the functions and responsibilities of certified application counselors, including that certified application counselors are not acting as tax advisers or attorneys when providing assistance as certified application counselors and cannot provide tax or legal advice within their capacity as certified application counselors;

(2) Provide authorization in a form and manner as determined by the Exchange prior to a certified application counselor obtaining access to an applicant's personally identifiable information, and that the organization or certified application counselor maintains a record of the authorization in a form and manner as determined by the Exchange. The Exchange must establish a reasonable retention period for maintaining these records. In Federally-facilitated Exchanges, this period is no less than six years, unless a different and longer retention period has already been provided under other applicable Federal law; and

(3) May revoke at any time the authorization provided the certified application counselor, pursuant to paragraph (f)(2) of this section.

(g) Fees, consideration, solicitation, and marketing. Organizations designated by the Exchange under paragraph (b) of this section and certified application counselors must not -

(1) Impose any charge on applicants or enrollees for application or other assistance related to the Exchange;

(2) Receive any consideration directly or indirectly from any health insurance issuer or issuer of stop-loss insurance in connection with the enrollment of any individuals in a QHP or a non-QHP. In a Federally-facilitated Exchange, no health care provider shall be ineligible to operate as a certified application counselor or organization designated by the Exchange under paragraph (b) of this section solely because it receives consideration from a health insurance issuer for health care services provided;

(3) Beginning November 15, 2014, if operating in a Federally-facilitated Exchange, provide compensation to individual certified application counselors on a per-application, per-individual-assisted, or per-enrollment basis;

(4) Provide to an applicant or potential enrollee gifts of any value as an inducement for enrollment. The value of gifts provided to applicants and potential enrollees for purposes other than as an inducement for enrollment must not exceed nominal value, either individually or in the aggregate, when provided to that individual during a single encounter. For purposes of this paragraph (g)(4), the term gifts includes gift items, gift cards, cash cards, cash, and promotional items that market or promote the products or services of a third party, but does not include the reimbursement of legitimate expenses incurred by a consumer in an effort to receive Exchange application assistance, such as travel or postage expenses;

(5) Solicit any consumer for application or enrollment assistance by going door-to-door or through other unsolicited means of direct contact, including calling a consumer to provide application or enrollment assistance without the consumer initiating the contact, unless the individual has a pre-existing relationship with the individual certified application counselor or designated organization and other applicable State and Federal laws are otherwise complied with. Outreach and education activities may be conducted by going door-to-door or through other unsolicited means of direct contact, including calling a consumer; or

(6) Initiate any telephone call to a consumer using an automatic telephone dialing system or an artificial or prerecorded voice, except in cases where the individual certified application counselor or designated organization has a relationship with the consumer and so long as other applicable State and Federal laws are otherwise complied with.

[78 FR 42861, July 17, 2013, as amended at 79 FR 30345, May 27, 2014; 79 FR 42986, July 24, 2014; 81 FR 12341, Mar. 8, 2016]