Certified application counselor designated organization (CDO) program information
Certified application counselor designated organizations (CDOs) are a vital component of the assister community. In the Federally-facilitated Marketplaces (FFMs), CDOs oversee certified application counselors (CACs) who are trained and able to help consumers seeking health insurance coverage options through an FFM. Organizations that wish to become CDOs designated by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to serve in an FFM must submit an online application and enter into an agreement with CMS. Your organization can apply to become a CDO.
Who can be a CDO and CAC?
To become a CDO in an FFM, the organization must, among other things:
- Establish processes to certify staff and volunteers to act as CACs.
- Have safeguards in place for protecting the privacy and security of personally identifiable information (PII) to ensure the appropriate handling of a consumer’s PII as the CDO provides assistance in the Marketplace.
- Establish processes to ensure that CACs do not have any conflicts of interest.
Please note that to serve as a CAC in an FFM, the individual must be affiliated with a CDO. Individuals can find CDOs in their area by searching our online Find Local Help directory. If you have questions, please contact us at CACQuestions@cms.hhs.gov.
Who cannot be a CDO and CAC?
Individuals and organizations who receive direct or indirect consideration from a health insurance issuer or stop loss insurance issuer in connection with the enrollment of an individual into a qualified health plan (QHP) or non-QHP are ineligible for the CAC Program (45 CFR § 155.225(g)(2)).
Please note that CMS does not certify assister organizations in states that operate State-based Marketplaces (SBMs) or State-based Marketplaces using the Federal Platform (SBM-FPs). For guidance regarding assister certification requirements in states that operate SBMs or SBM-FPs, we encourage you to contact your assister organization and your state’s Department of Insurance.
What does a CDO do?
As a CDO, CAC staff and volunteers will help people understand, apply for, and enroll in health insurance coverage through an FFM.
The organization must:
- Have processes in place to screen its staff and volunteers to make sure that they protect consumer information.
- Have processes for certifying CACs who provide Marketplace application and enrollment assistance to consumers.
- Agree to make sure individual CACs complete required training, comply with privacy and security laws, and meet other program standards.
Why become a CDO in an FFM?
- CACs will gain access to annual certification training via the Marketplace Learning Management System (MLMS) so they can provide Marketplace application and enrollment assistance to consumers.
- CMS will provide the organization and CACs with important assister information and updates via webinars and newsletters.
- The organization may post its listings on our online Find Local Help directory, which connects consumers with enrollment assistance.
- The organization will receive general support via the CAC Questions inbox at CACQuestions@cms.hhs.gov as well as technical support for consumer assistance via the Marketplace Call Center.
CAC application resources
- CDO Application and Overview (Video) (Transcript) – May 2020
- CDO FAQs and CDO Application FAQs – August 2023
- CDO Application Demonstration (Video) (Transcript) (Slides) – July 2019
- CDO Application User Guide – August 2023
- Submit a CDO Application
- CDO Application Information
- Information for Active CDOs
- Guidance on Certified Application Counselor Program for the Federally-Facilitated Marketplace including State Partnership Marketplaces