Healthcare Business News
Ron Pollack, Families USA

Campaign aims to educate uninsured about ACA coverage options

By Jessica Zigmond
Posted: June 17, 2013 - 7:15 pm ET

In a scramble before open enrollment for the health insurance exchanges begins in October, Enroll America on Tuesday will launch Get America Covered, a campaign to educate Americans about the coverage options available to them under the 2010 health reform law.

Led by former Obama administration official Anne Filipic, Enroll America is the not-for-profit group charged with coordinating efforts to help uninsured Americans learn about the healthcare insurance benefits available in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act—and then help them enroll in coverage. Health systems, healthcare provider and physician groups, health plans, and consumer organizations make up Enroll America's advisory council, while the group's executive board includes Chairman Ron Pollack, executive director of consumer advocacy group Families USA; Richard Umbdenstock, president and CEO of the American Hospital Association; and Sister Carol Keehan, president and CEO of the Catholic Health Association.

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“The vast majority of people who don't have coverage and who can gain it under the Affordable Care Act are unaware of it,” Pollack told Modern Healthcare, adding that more than 30 million Americans could enroll in coverage, which excludes those who would have been eligible for coverage under the Medicaid expansion in states that won't adopt it.

“It's going to take some time to get folks knowledgeable about it,” Pollack said. “The hope is we make a huge start, and as more and more people get coverage and tell their neighbors and friends about the coverage they receive, the word will spread significantly.”

To do this, Pollack said Enroll America—which had eight staff members at the end of last year—is expected to expand its staff to 275 people from its current staff level of 50 today. Currently, the organization has staff and volunteers in Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, New Jersey and Ohio, and it expects to add more in other states. Although Pollack did not provide an exact dollar amount of what Enroll America has spent so far, he said “well into the eight figures has been budgeted,” with financial commitments in hand and ready to spend.

Pollack also noted that this enrollment effort is far different from large-scale rollouts of previous federal healthcare programs, such as Medicare Part D and the Children's Health Insurance Program in the late 1990s.

“With respect to Medicare Part D, it was a much simpler process,” Pollack said. “The individuals who were the focus of outreach were identifiable: they were Medicare beneficiaries. There was no difficulty in figuring out who was the target audience. It was telling a group of people already on Medicare that there is an additional benefit you can receive,” he continued. “There's a huge difference this time. Here we have tens of millions of people who are uninsured. There's not a list of who the uninsured are.”

Meanwhile, healthcare providers and health plans have lent their support directly to Enroll America and are working on other enrollment efforts simultaneously. Robert Zirkelbach, spokesman for America's Health Insurance Plans, said in an interview that AHIP gave seed money to Enroll America when the group was established, although he did not provide a dollar amount. He also said that he expects AHIP's member companies to now shift their attention from completing their benefit packages to enrollment. “Companies across the country will be engaged in getting people enrolled at the ground level in the states,” Zirkelbach said.

And the AHA, which has supported the establishment and the work of Enroll America, expects its enrollment efforts to heat up as Oct. 1 nears, according to Marie Watteau, a spokeswoman for the AHA.The AHA has contributed a “significant amount” to the group, Watteau said in an e-mail.

“We are also working with others to help provide resources to hospitals to help them enroll patients in coverage,” she said. “Hospitals have long helped patients apply for coverage programs and that work will continue this summer and into the fall.”

A spokesman for Enroll America said in an e-mail that the organization would answer questions about the education and enrollment campaign during its scheduled call with members of the news media on Tuesday. Enroll America President Anne Filipic will be joined by Dr. Alice Chen, executive director of Doctors for America, and Liz Moskowitz, a Texas volunteer for Get Covered America, on the call.

Follow Jessica Zigmond on Twitter: @MHjzigmond

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