CHICAGO (AP) — President Barack Obama’s administration is courting female bloggers to play a role in a massive campaign aimed at informing the public about the benefits of the new Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).
Over breakfast at a blogging conference Thursday in Chicago, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary (HHS) Kathleen Sebelius asked a banquet hall full of bloggers — most of them women — to help spread the word about new health insurance opportunities that begin this fall under PPACA.
Many uninsured Americans know little about how the law will affect them, Sebelius said, and want information from people they trust.
“I bet you more people could tell you the name of the new prince of England than could tell you that the health market opens Oct. 1,” Sebelius said at the national BlogHer conference.
In a little more than two months, each state is supposed to have a Web-based exchange where people can comparison shop for a health policy. The law requires most people to get covered and many will receive financial help paying their premiums through new tax credits.
The administration has been recruiting celebrities, librarians and now bloggers to help with a marketing blitz aimed at enrolling the uninsured. The federal government has a $41 million contract with public relations firm Weber Shandwick for a national campaign. Separately, federal grants will fuel a $684 million outreach effort through the states.
To the bloggers, Sebelius plugged the law’s protections for women, garnering applause when she said health insurers will no longer be able to charge women more than men for a similar policy. She cited the law’s guarantee of breast cancer screenings and contraception benefits for women without extra fees or copays.
In the audience was Jenni Prokopy of Chicago, who blogs at chronicbabe.com and has 20,000 unique visitors a month, mostly women with chronic illnesses. Her readers often ask her about insurance and health care costs when “they’re freaked out and don’t know where to turn.”
“It’s my responsibility to give them accurate information (about the health care law) and present that information in a way that’s still my voice,” Prokopy said.
Blogger Jennifer Kehl of Deerfield, Ill., was more skeptical. She said she’s “not a big fan of Obamacare, to be honest” because “I need less bureaucracy, not more.” But after hearing Sebelius speak, she said she would check the government’s healthcare.gov website to learn more.