President Barack Obama rarely makes much mention of healthcare in his annual keynote speeches, but this week he could use the forum to help launch a historic enrollment effort.
The relatively few healthcare references in the president's four previous State of the Union addresses came despite healthcare reform as Obama's leading domestic policy goal and then signature legislative achievement.
That could change, said health policy experts, with the final address before the coverage expansion authorized by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act launches later this year. Informing an estimated 27 million of the nation's 58 million uninsured citizens that they are newly eligible for some type of insurance coverage is seen as one of the Obama administration's biggest challenges in 2013.
“That's just a herculean task that we have been preparing for since basically the legislation was passed and signed into law,” said David Lemmon, communications director for the liberal consumer advocacy group Families USA.
His group and others have launched educational campaigns sometimes in tandem with growing enrollment efforts by the Obama administration. Those efforts are needed, policy experts said, because if younger, healthier enrollees do not sign up, then costs of the new coverage system will fall on older, sicker Americans.