Local Officials Tapped To Help Promote Health Insurance Exchanges
With fewer than three months before open enrollment begins for the Affordable Care Act's insurance exchanges, the Obama administration is ramping up its efforts to promote the law, the New York Times reports. According to the Times, the administration is targeting young healthy adults -- a key demographic that observers say will play a critical role in the success of the law and efforts to keep costs down.
Obama Administration To Recruit Local Officials
As part of the outreach efforts, the administration plans to bypass Republican leaders of several states that oppose the ACA and recruit local officials, such as mayors and county commissioners, to help raise awareness about the law and its benefits.
Officials in many states -- particularly those governed or led by Republicans, like Florida and Texas -- have refused to establish state-based exchanges or expand their Medicaid programs. As a result, the administration had no other alternative but to take its outreach efforts to the local level, some White House officials noted.
However, some Republican city and county officials are expected to participate in the ACA outreach initiatives, the Times reports. Counties in many states have legal obligations to help cover the costs of health care for low-income individuals, and some county officials see the ACA as a way to reduce those expenses, according to the Times.
Robert Cluck -- the Republican mayor of Arlington, Texas -- said that while he does not intend to discuss the ACA, he wants to help ensure that residents have access to "proper health care." He said, "When the new health insurance system begins, it will be very complicated and very confusing," and "[a] lot of people will need a lot of help," adding, "Whatever we can do as community leaders, to help people understand the changes, it's our responsibility to do."
Meanwhile in Florida, state Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez (D) and Sen. Eleanor Sobel (D) said they recently took part in a conference call organized by White House officials seeking help promoting the law. Rodriguez said, "We clearly do not have an ally in Tallahassee," adding, "So we are working directly with community groups and officials in Washington to make sure people here have access to affordable health insurance plans in the exchange."
Some Opponents Question Benefit of Outreach Efforts
Some state Republican officials questioned the benefits of the administration's local outreach campaigns. Susan Hepworth -- a spokesperson for the Republican Party of Florida -- said she believes the ACA is "so incredibly unpopular that no amount of town halls or forums will stop the bleeding," adding, "This is their attempt at triage."
Steve Munisteri -- chair of the Republican Party of Texas -- said, "We are not opposed to county judges or county commissioners providing information to people about their options." He added, "But health insurance will still be too expensive for some people, even with federal tax credits, because President Obama has not delivered on his campaign promise to lower the cost of insurance" (Pear, New York Times, 6/29).
Librarians To Help With Enrollment Efforts
Meanwhile over the weekend, the American Library Association announced that as many as 17,000 libraries nationwide will join a national effort to help individuals obtain information about the ACA and provide computer assistance to those who need it to fill out the new online insurance application forms, the AP/Boston Globe reports.
Julie Bataille -- a spokesperson for CMS -- said, "Libraries are a tremendous resource for people in their communities," noting that most library computers have Internet access and serve as a bridge across the digital divide. "They're already a destination many individuals go to when they're seeking out information and understanding on a variety of issues," Bataille added. She noted that CMS and the library association previously collaborated during the implementation of the Medicare Part D program.
According to the Institute of Museum and Library Services, libraries already provide health information to an estimated 28 million people annually through their public access computers.
Susan Hildreth, director of IMLS, said some libraries likely will dedicate some public computers for individuals who need access to the health insurance marketplaces or extend time limits on the computers. She said the organization is contracting with the Online Computer Library Center to create an online toolkit and training webinars for librarians (Johnson, AP/Boston Globe, 6/28).
White House To Utilize Mothers To Reach Young Adults
Meanwhile, advocacy groups like "Moms Rising" and AARP are working to reach young adults who might believe that they are healthy enough to forgo insurance coverage, Politico reports.
HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius recently noted that "moms can be influential with that demographic group," adding that messaging for the targeted campaign should include "creative ways" to reach out to those who might "not get up every morning thinking about health insurance."
Anne Filipic -- president of Enroll America, a not-for-profit coalition that is working to promote the ACA -- said, "Our research shows the No. 1 most-effective messenger is their mother." She added that Enroll American plans to involve mothers in its campaign this summer and fall.
Meanwhile, Moms Rising is developing "Wellness Wonder Teams" to complement its social media and blog outreach initiatives. The teams will consist of women who pledge to tell at least 10 other people about the law, Politico reports. Moms Rising President Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner said volunteers will receive a packet that has a range of information, resources, links and social media ideas (Kenen, Politico, 6/29).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.