(Bloomberg) — President Barack Obama told workers helping to enroll Americans in health care plans offered under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) — Obamacare — that they must fight efforts to scare off millions of Americans who still have not purchased insurance.
The president’s conference call Wednesday with enrollment counselors and advocates for his signature domestic achievement was intended to boost enthusiasm for the program amid indications that sign-ups are flat-lining. The third open-enrollment period for private insurance sold under the law began on Sunday.
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About 35 million people in the U.S. remained without insurance in 2015, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).
“They’ve been fed a lot of misinformation, and this has become unfortunately this political issue that it never should have been,” Obama said on the call. “That’s in a lot of circumstances scared them off, and we’ve got to make sure we reach them.”
Obama said that the government’s data showed that six in 10 people still did not know that tax credits were available to help them purchase health insurance. He also warned that enrollment efforts would suffer from diminishing media coverage in the third year of the program.
“We’re anticipating we’re not going to have the same amount of national media attention we’ve had in the past, so we’re going to have to be more creative,” Obama said.
The administration has already downplayed expectations. Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell last month said she expects only 10 million Americans to be enrolled by late 2016 — a modest increase from the 9.1 million projected to have plans purchased through the PPACA insurance exchanges by the end of 2015. The CBO said in June that it expected about 20 million people to be enrolled in exchange plans in 2016.
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Administration officials have acknowledged difficulty reaching uninsured people who haven’t yet signed up. Burwell said on Twitter on Tuesday that 250,000 applications for insurance had been submitted in the first two days of open enrollment, a number that does not represent the number of consumers who had selected and purchased a plan.
State politics also complicate the White House’s efforts to expand use of PPACA exchange plans and PPACA Medicaid expansion coverage. On Tuesday, Kentucky elected Matt Bevin, a Republican who promised to close his state’s PPACA insurance exchange, Kynect, and reshape the state’s expansion of Medicaid.