Politico by Jennifer Haberkorn –
June 24, 2013:
For Obamacare the magic number is 7 million.
That’s how many people the Obama administration hopes to enroll in its new health insurance marketplaces by the end of March. It is starting a huge public education campaign to get people on board with hopes for an assist from the NFL and other professional sports leagues.
“The most daunting aspect is that people still don’t know enough about what’s going to change in the law and don’t have enough information — still have some misinformation,” Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told reporters on Monday while introducing an updated website and new call center to help get the word out on the president’s health law.
In 98 days, the health insurance exchanges established under the law will open to a public that is sharply skewed against it — either because people oppose it or they don’t understand it.
To try to build support and get people signed up, the Obama administration is in talks with the NFL, NBA and other leagues about a role in a campaign-style rollout that will peak this summer. President Barack Obama, Sebelius and other officials are expected to travel the country to spread the message, reinforced by social media and paid advertising.
The call center eventually will have 9,000 employees in 11 states. They will be able to answer questions in more than 100 languages. The website is being built to handle traffic higher than the 60 million who go to Medicare.gov annually.
But how much consumers will have to pay for insurance — perhaps the greatest factor in whether young and healthy people sign up — won’t be announced in many states until September. Sebelius said the administration is negotiating with insurers now on rates in the states where the federal government will run the exchange. It’s a more active role than the administration first suggested it would play in rate-setting.
“What consumers should be confident about is we intend to do rate negotiation and make sure that the plans offer consumers the best possible choices,” Sebelius said.
The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that 24 million people will get health insurance on the exchange by 2023, but only 7 million in the first year. Millions more can go into expanded Medicaid, although those projections were cut after the Supreme Court last year allowed states to opt out.
Sebelius on Monday said 7 million is a “realistic target.”
“We’re going to be driving our efforts toward that kind of enrollment effort,” she said. “It’s both about numbers and also hopefully getting a balanced risk pool.”
The big concern is that the people who make the effort to navigate what could be a complicated sign-up process for a new government program will be disproportionately sick. If people who are sick are the only ones to sign up, the insurance pools will be weighed down by their medical bills and collapse.
Underscoring the importance of getting the young and healthy on board, Sebelius said she is personally involved in talks with the NFL and other sports leagues about potential partnerships related to enrollment.
“We’re having discussions — active discussions — right now with a variety of sports affiliates, both in terms of what will end up being paid advertising but hopefully some partnership efforts,” she said.
Star athletes could help persuade young people to enroll, but Sebelius is also hoping that many moms weigh in. She said the administration’s research has found that mothers can most easily persuade a 20-something child, especially men, to get health insurance.
“Moms can be influential with that demographic group,” she said. “So some of our outreach efforts will be to those mothers who both make health decisions for their own families … but can also have some influence over their younger adult children.”
Sebelius said she’s confident that the exchanges will be ready to go on Oct. 1, pushing back against critics who say the government will not be ready in time.
“We have the next couple of months laid out with a very busy and engaged schedule to make sure that we’re ready for marketplace launch on Oct. 1, with open enrollment,” Sebelius said. “It’s a huge undertaking across the country, and I’m confident we’re on track to get it done.”