The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act isn’t as old as you think, but its history has already been long and arduous. Three years after President Obama signed it into law, it’s still overwhelmingly confusing — not to mention unpopular — among Americans across all demographics.
Sure, the law survived a Supreme Court case and a presidential election, but it hardly escaped unscathed. Many more states than expected refused to set up their own health care exchanges, instead defaulting to the federal government. House Republicans are still holding votes to repeal PPACA, though the motion isn’t likely to make it past the Democratic Senate. Carriers are proceeding with caution when it comes to setting up shop in the public exchanges while industry veterans warn of impending doom.
But perhaps the biggest challenge has been the average American. Poll after poll has found the same thing: The majority of the country still opposes the law, and perhaps even worse, they don’t understand it.
Kaiser Family Foundation underscored the problem in its latest health tracking poll when it found that nearly half of Americans don’t even realize PPACA is still law and is being implemented. And worse yet, the people who stand to benefit the most are the least aware of the changes that are coming. According to Kaiser’s poll, 58 percent of the uninsured and 56 percent of low-income households say they lack enough information to understand how PPACA will affect them.
So with all of this in mind, just how do you market something so many people are either against or blissfully unaware of?
That’s the challenge for Enroll America — a nonprofit group formed in 2011 to get the word out about PPACA — and its president, Anne Filipic.
Filipic admits it’s a big undertaking.
“There are millions of uninsured Americans across the country,” she says. “The new law is a big deal — a big win — for consumers. And many are really unaware of the opportunities. We have a challenge to raise that awareness to them.”
Enroll America is an umbrella organization for groups that will promote PPACA’s insurance exchanges, new online marketplaces where millions will shop for coverage starting Oct. 1.
Though a number of organizations are working nationally on enrollment — including the Obama administration and insurers and advocates — Filipic says Enroll America is in a unique situation because it brings all those groups together.
The success of the law depends on enrollment. Without participation, experts warn, health care costs may surge because not enough healthy people will participate to offset benefits payouts. That’s aside from the rate shock that’s already been plaguing some consumers under PPACA.
Beginning Jan. 1, uninsured Americans will be forced to pay a penalty of either $95 or 1 percent of income, whichever is greater, if they don’t buy insurance. The fine increases each year.
Enroll America’s goal is simple: To educate the public about the changes coming, and what the new law means for them and their families, Filipic says.
“We are working on maximizing the number of uninsured Americans to enroll in health coverage through [PPACA],” says Filipic, 31, from her office in Washington, D.C.
This summer marks the beginning of Enroll America’s big campaign push, called “Get Covered America.” The focus, Filipic says, is to educate consumers about the benefits of health insurance coverage and the new options available to them under PPACA.
There’s a lot of ground to cover: There are roughly 48 million uninsured U.S. residents. The Congressional Budget Office estimates 30 million will gain coverage.
The campaign — which is expected to cost tens of millions of dollars — is using tactics of a typical political campaign, including online organizing, grassroots outreach, paid advertising, and volunteers and staff going door-to-door in communities.
“What we are really focused on is having a presence in communities across the country and really building a full campaign that creates kind of an echo chamber for consumers and meets them where they are, in their communities,” Filipic says. “We want to give them the information they need to make a decision that is very personal and really allows them to choose a plan that works for them and meets their family budget.”
The group will target people in churches, in community health centers, in businesses — the list goes on. The outreach is helped by partnerships with community leaders, hospitals and insurers, Filipec says, partnerships “we’ve been working to build since Enroll America’s inception in 2011.”
Also a part of the role, Filipic insists, is health insurance brokers and agents.
“[They’re] trusted messengers and will be one important part of a multi-pronged effort to provide consumers with the information they need to apply for coverage and choose a health plan that’s right for them,” she says.
Though the campaign is nationwide, the group will devote more resources to states that are plagued by high uninsured rates, including Texas, California, Florida and Illinois. States like Texas and Florida are also where opposition to the legislation has been especially strong.
See also: Obama pitches PPACA in California