Supporters of the Affordable Care Act said they’ll debut a campaign this week in 18 U.S. states to promote a law still poorly understood by those designed to benefit most.
Enroll America, a Washington-based nonprofit group, said it will hold 50 community events to kick off the effort in states with high numbers of uninsured residents, from California to Texas to Florida. An advertising campaign will follow as the law approaches the Oct. 1 opening of enrollment for subsidized insurance plans.
“There are millions of Americans without health insurance today,” Anne Filipic, the group’s president, told reporters today on a conference call. “We know if they don’t know about it, they won’t enroll, and that is where we come in.”
About 7 million Americans are expected to buy coverage next year through new online markets, called exchanges, according to congressional estimates. Still, Republican critics continue to attack the law and surveys suggest few of the potential customers understand its provisions. An Enroll America poll earlier this year found 78 percent of those without health insurance don’t know about the law, Filipic said.
The lack of awareness has prompted anxiety among the law’s backers. In April, Senator Max Baucus, a Montana Democrat, said he feared a “train wreck” if the Obama administration didn’t improve its outreach efforts. Organizing for Action, an advocacy group born from the president’s campaign arm, introduced a television ad yesterday as part of a “seven-figure” media buy to spread the word.
In an interview last month, Filipic, a former aide to President Barack Obama, said her group was creating a computer model of the nation’s uninsured and using the information to better target an organizing effort by local volunteers.
Kathleen Sebelius, the U.S. health secretary, drew criticism from Republicans in Congress last month after she said she had contacted health-care companies she regulates about supporting the enrollment effort.
Filipic today declined to comment about specific goals of the campaign, saying only that the organization would work with local partners to mobilize thousands of volunteers to reach out to the uninsured. She also declined to discuss the campaign’s budget or fundraising goals. “We feel really good about having the resources we need,” she said.
The campaign, called Get Covered America, will also work with health-industry partners, Filipic said. The group’s advisers include insurer Kaiser Permanente and drugstore chain CVS Caremark Corp. Enroll America is working with hospitals, for example, to ensure their employees can answer questions if patients want to enroll, Filipic said.
“We know that this is a personal issue to folks, an overwhelming issue for many folks,” she said. “So we need to think about how do we make this as easy as possible for consumers.”