New coalition will spread the word about health insurance changes
Tamara E. Holmes
For all of the heated political debate and intense media coverage focusing on federal health care reform, millions of Americans are clueless about it.
Thirty-five percent of Americans say they aren’t familiar with the health care reform law, according to results of a Forrester Research Inc. survey released in September 2011. Uninsured Americans — who are supposed to be the biggest beneficiaries of health care reform — are the least likely group (43 percent) to be familiar with the law, which was signed in 2010.
|The intricacies of health care reform are leaving many Americans confused. A new group called Enroll America hopes to serve as a guide.|
A new coalition hopes to turn those numbers around. The goals of Enroll America are to educate consumers about their rights under health care reform and to ensure that millions sign up for health care coverage.
“We want to see as many of the uninsured get coverage as quickly and easily as possible,” says Rachel Klein, executive director of Enroll America, whose 42 members include AARP, the American Hospital Association , Families USA, Kaiser Permanente and Teva Pharmaceuticals USA.
Although the effort formally launched in September 2011, its organizers have been planning for it for about a year now, when it became apparent that Americans would have to be educated about the changes resulting from federal health care reform, Klein says. For example, under the law, consumers without employer-sponsored health insurance can shop for coverage through marketplaces known as insurance exchanges. Likewise, some individuals and families will be able to receive federal subsidies to help offset health insurance costs. The law also will increase the number of people who are eligible to receive Medicaid.
In 2010, nearly 50 million Americans lacked health insurance. However, the Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee on Taxation estimate federal health care reform could lead to an increase in the number of non-elderly Americans with health insurance of about 32 million by 2016 and 34 million by 2021. “We want to make sure that happens and even exceed those numbers,” Klein says.
The coalition is made up of pharmaceutical, hospital and insurance organizations, as well as those representing physicians, consumers, health centers and people will disabilities and major illnesses.
Klein says: “I don’t think there is any other issue in health coverage where all of these different entities with such disparate points of view about health care and health coverage would be able to come together in one place and say, ‘This is an issue that matters to all of us. We really need to get it right.’”
Increasing consumer awareness
Though low- and moderate-income Americans stand to gain substantial health insurance savings as a result of federal health care reform, surveys suggest that many of the people the law is meant to help are unaware of how the legislation could affect them. A Kaiser Family Foundation poll conducted in August found that 47 percent of uninsured Americans don’t think they’ll be affected much by the law. Another 14 percent of uninsured Americans think the law will hurt them. Among all Americans, 17 percent say they don’t know enough about the law to form an opinion on it.
When it comes to the details of the law, many Americans have the facts wrong. For example, though the law provides for tax credits for low- and moderate-income Americans, 41 percent incorrectly said in the August poll that the law does not provide tax credits.
Many uninsured Americans don’t know how health care reform will help them simply because they’ve been too busy trying to support their families to study details of the law, says Drew Altman, president and CEO of the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Klein agrees: “I think it’s not unusual that the average American doesn’t know the details of what’s in the bill, especially since the coverage that’s coming isn’t coming until 2014.” But she hopes that as the date gets closer, media attention and efforts by Enroll America will change that.
A multifaceted approach
Enroll America will attempt to influence the number of people with health insurance in several ways. Among them are:
- The organization has established a Best Practices Institute that shares ideas for making the health insurance enrollment process run as smoothly as possible.
- Enroll America’s website will feature links to places where consumers can find information about health insurance.
- A major public information campaign will be launched in 2013, letting consumers know about their insurance options in the upcoming year.
“Clearly, health insurance is an important issue for people,” Klein says. “It’s expensive and a lot of people who want coverage haven’t been able to afford it, but come January 1, 2014, there are going to be a lot of new opportunities for people to get coverage.”