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Biden to Promote HealthCare.gov With "Robust" Paid Ad Campaign

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The Biden administration is about to launch an advertising campaign that will sell people on the importance of having health insurance.

President Joe Biden signed a health insurance access executive order related to health coverage Thursday. The order requires federal agencies to look into ways to clear any obstacles to enrolling low-income people Medicaid, and to clear any obstacles to getting higher-income people to buy commercial coverage through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) public exchange system.

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The president said people need health coverage to deal with the COVID-19 crisis.

The new coverage access executive order will “undo the damage Trump has done,” Biden said during an executive order signing event at the White House, which was streamed live on the web. “There’s nothing new that we’re doing here other than restoring the Affordable Care Act and restoring the Medicaid to the way it was before Trump became president.”

The order itself states that the secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) should look into creating a special enrollment period for HealthCare.gov, or extra time when people can buy individual coverage through HealthCare.gov without showing they have what the government classifies as a good excuse to be buying health coverage.

Biden administration officials said in a fact sheet and a press briefing that they expect a new special enrollment period to run from Feb. 15 through May 15 in the 36 states HealthCare.gov serves.

A New Wave of HealthCare.Gov Ads

During the press briefing after the executive order signing event, Jen Psaki, Biden’s press secretary, offered to answer questions about the order.

Most of the reporters’ questions were about other topics.

A reporter from Reuters News did ask Psaki how the new three-month open enrollment period might affect the number of people with health insurance.

“We don’t have a number,” Psaki said. “But the reason that the president signed the executive order today was because it felt essential at a time of a pandemic when millions of people are concerned about their health care, and many — far too many — still don’t have access to open up an expanded window for Americans to be able to apply.”

Psaki then talked about marketing support for the new special enrollment period.

“We will have a robust public campaign — a public paid media campaign — to reach the American people, and we’ll be putting a lot of levers and resources toward that,” Psaki said. “But I don’t have a prediction for you in terms of the numbers.”

Broker Reaction

Health insurers, regulators and Affordable Care Act public health insurance exchanges, or web-based supermarkets for health insurance, originally developed the “open enrollment period” system, or limits on when people can buy health coverage through the ordinary process, in an effort to push healthy people to pay for coverage.

The idea is that healthy people who don’t get insurance may break their legs or catch pneumonia outside the open enrollment period, with no way to get covered.

Brokers have been enthusiastic about the idea of HealthCare.gov managers adding a broad special enrollment period, and insurers now seem warmer to the idea.

A web-based health insurance broker, eHealth Inc., announced support for the special enrollment period idea Wednesday.

“We strongly support the Biden administration’s leadership and quick action on ensuring access to health coverage for millions of American’s struggling with the impact of the pandemic,” Scott Flanders, eHealth’s chief executive officer, said in a comment about the idea.

Insurer Reactions

Executives from Anthem Inc., a major health insurer, suggested Wednesday that a new HealthCare.gov open enrollment period was likely to be part of a welcome wave of Biden support for health coverage access programs.

Matt Eyles, president of America’s Health Insurance Plans, a group for health insurers, put out a statement applauding Biden administration efforts to help more people get health coverage.

“Every American deserves access to affordable, comprehensive health coverage and high-quality care,” Eyles said in the statement. “We applaud the call for a targeted special enrollment period that is accompanied by robust consumer outreach and education, which will provide an additional opportunity for hard-working Americans to obtain comprehensive coverage for themselves and their families.”

Locally Run ACA Exchange Program Reaction

Fourteen states and the District of Columbia offer locally run ACA public exchange programs for their residents.

Many locally run exchanges have already extended their enrollment periods for 2021 coverage well beyond the regular Nov. 1 and Dec. 15 HealthCare.gov enrollment period starting and ending dates.

Managers for Connect for Health Colorado, Colorado’s ACA exchange program, said they will mirror the federal executive order by re-opening enrollment at Connect for Health Colorado.

The Colorado special enrollment period will run from Feb. 8 through May 15, officials said.

Possible Impact on Financial Professionals

A large HealthCare.gov campaign could have an obvious effect on increasing individual health coverage sales through agents and brokers who work with HealthCare.gov.

A big awareness campaign also could have spillover effects, by increasing consumer interest in the concept of insurance.

That could help sales of supplemental health insurance, dental insurance, life insurance, disability insurance and even retirement savings products as well as sales of individual health insurance.

— Read COVID-19 Hit Harder Than Expected: Anthem CEO, on ThinkAdvisor.

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