Health insurance overview
Using insurance agents
Insurance agents, also called "producers," do more than sell insurance. They can help you compare plans, fill out an insurance company application, or assist with claims issues.
There are two types of insurance agents, captive and independent. Captive agents work exclusively for one insurance company. Independent agents represent more than one company and are paid a commission by the company you buy from.
How do agents operate?
- All agents selling health insurance in Oregon must be licensed by the Oregon Insurance Division.
- Health insurance agents usually sell various health insurance products, including dental, vision, and short and long-term disability insurance.
- An independent agent can provide information on more than one company's plans .
- Some agents in Oregon also have websites that allow you to compare plans from different companies. You can use search engines to find them, typing in key words such as "health insurance in Oregon."
- If using an agent:
- Ask the agent what companies he or she represents. The more companies an agent represents, the more plans they can compare to find the right product for you. All agents must be "appointed" by health insurance companies to sell their products.
- Have a detailed conversation with your agent to make sure your health insurance needs are fully covered for you and your family.
How do agents get paid?
- Agents get a commission from the insurance company if you buy a plan. The commission is built into the cost of the premium, and does not affect the cost to you. This means that if you buy through an agent or through the insurance company, you will always pay the same price.
Should I contact more than one agent?
- One agent can't get a better price than another for the same plan because rates for individual, small group, and portability plans (for people leaving group coverage) are filed and approved by the Oregon Insurance Division.
- In shopping for an agent, consider service. Will your agent help you understand how your policy works and explain what's covered and not covered and what your costs will be? Will they check to see whether your needs change?
How do I choose an agent?
- Ask friends or family for recommendations.
- Contact the Insurance Division's Producer Licensing Unit (503-947-7981) or visit www.insurance.oregon.gov to determine whether the agent is licensed.
- Ask insurance agents for client references.
- If you know what insurance company you want, the company can recommend an agent.
Tip: Agent help
If you are looking for an agent to help you shop for health insurance, ask the agent what company he or she represents. That way, you'll know how many companies and plans the agent can compare and whether the list includes any companies you are particularly interested in researching.