Seeking to educate Americans about the upcoming health insurance exchanges under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the Obama administration has relaunched a website and opened a 24-hour call center.


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Educational campaign on ACA gets under way

July 8th, 2013

WASHINGTON – Seeking to educate Americans about the upcoming health insurance exchanges under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the Obama administration has relaunched a website and opened a 24-hour call center.

The tools are designed to help people understand their choices and select the coverage that best suits their needs when open enrollment in the Health Insurance Marketplace begins October 1.

“The new website and toll-free number have a simple mission: to make sure all Americans who need health coverage have the information they need to make choices that are right for themselves and their families — or their businesses,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

The actions came shortly after the Government Accountability Office reported that the federal government and a number of states were “behind schedule” in setting up exchanges.

“The relaunched Healthcare.gov and new call center will help consumers prepare for the new coverage opportunities coming later this year,” said Marilyn Tavenner, administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. “In October HealthCare.gov will be the online destination for consumers to compare and enroll in affordable, qualified health plans.”

Through the website Americans may access new educational information and learn what they can do to begin to get ready for open enrollment. The site will add functionality over the summer so that, by October, consumers will be able to create accounts, complete an online application and shop for qualified plans.

Key features of the website, based on consumer research and online commercial best practices, include integration of social media, sharable content and engagement destinations for consumers to get more information. The site will also launch with web chat functionality to support additional consumer inquiries.

The site is built with a responsive design so that consumers may access it from their desktops, smartphones and other mobile devices. In addition, the site is available through an application interface at www.healthcare.gov/developers.

An estimated 7 million people will purchase private plans through the exchanges in 2014, according to the Congressional Budget Office, while 9 million will get coverage through Medicaid. It predicts that the number of uninsured Americans will be cut from 56 million to 31 million by 2016.

But insurance options will vary widely by state. Residents of California, Colorado and Maryland, for example, will be able to choose from an array of providers, but choices in other states may be restricted to the local Blue Cross company and a few new players with no history of covering individuals, including the two-dozen insurers established by the ACA.

Nationwide, dissatisfaction with the ACA reached a high of 49% in a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll conducted between May 30 and June 2. Virtually half (49%) of respondents called the law a bad idea, while just 37% praised it. And 38% of those polled thought they would be worse off under the statute, while 19% felt they would gain from it.
At the same time, a report from the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that U.S. consumers who purchase their own health insurance saved $2.1 billion in 2012 as a result of the ACA.

The June Kaiser Health Tracking Poll found that a large majority of Americans want and value health insurance. More than seven in 10 young adults — a special focus of outreach and enrollment efforts — say it is very important to them personally to have insurance.

Cost remains the biggest barrier for the uninsured, with four in 10 citing the expense of coverage as the main reason they don’t have it. Roughly half of those under age 65 believe they or a household member have what would be considered a preexisting condition, and a quarter of them say they have either been denied insurance or had their premium increased as a result.

While young adults are sometimes described as viewing themselves as “young invincibles,” the poll findings indicate that many worry about affording medical bills, particularly catastrophic ones. Among those ages 30 and younger, roughly two-thirds say they are concerned about “not being able to pay medical bills in the event of a serious illness or accident,” while over four in 10 say they fret over affording medical bills “for routine health care services.”

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