On June 22, consumer-health groups across the nation will launch what they hope will be a massive education and enrollment campaign to find uninsured people and get them ready to sign up for health coverage.
The campaign will be called “Get Covered, America!” Its official launch is June 22 because that marks 100 days until the opening of state and federal online “marketplaces” where the uninsured can shop for coverage. Under the Affordable Care Act, Americans who don’t already have health insurance through employers, Medicare or some other source are required to get it as of Jan. 1.
The goal of "Get Covered, America!" is to find the uninsured and show them how to get coverage, said Jennifer Sullivan of Enroll America, a Washington, D.C. non-profit that is coordinating the education campaign.
“We are embarking on this effort because we have consumer research that shows more than three-quarters of the uninsured have no idea there is anything in the new health law for them,” Sullivan said. “Our goal is to make sure as many consumers as possible know there are new options available and know there is help with the cost of them.”
She’s referring to a feature of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that subsidizes the cost of insurance for those with incomes between 100 percent and 400 percent of the federal poverty level – between $11,490 and $45,960 for an individual – on a sliding scale. (See this Families USA chart to get the income levels for various family sizes).
In some states, those under the poverty level will be covered through an expansion of Medicaid, a controversial part of the health law. But since the Supreme Court ruled that expansion is optional, many states have opted out – including Florida and Texas, two of the states that have millions of uninsured.
For that reason, Florida and Texas will be among states that get special attention by Enroll America and other consumer groups during the “Get Covered, America!” campaign, Enroll America staffers said.
In Florida, they hope to find and enroll between 2 and 3 million people through the marketplace, which will be operated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Ten insurers have filed applications to sell plans on the Florida market, as Health News Florida reported.
During this year's session, the Florida Legislature voted against two of the major features of the Affordable Care Act: creating a state-run marketplace and expanding Medicaid, which would have brought the state an estimated $51 billion over 10 years to cover more than 1 million low-income uninsured.
One of the groups participating in the Get Covered! campaign, Florida CHAIN, will be making “a huge educational effort” to make sure people understand how the marketplace’s subsidies and tax credits work, said CHAIN’s advocacy director Leah Barber-Heinz of St. Petersburg.
CHAIN estimates there are 700,000 uninsured Florida adults who would have been covered under the Medicaid expansion that the state rejected, and thus will not qualify for any coverage or financial help.
“Though we won’t be able to tell them how to enroll in the marketplace, what we would like to do is give them a voice and an opportunity to tell their stories as we move forward in working to expand Medicaid,” Barber-Heinz said. “We want to give them a chance to say ‘This is my situation, this is what is happening to me and my loved ones because of the inaction of the Florida Legislature.’”
Nick Duran of Miami, who will become Enroll America’s Florida director on July 1, said there will be a strategy meeting next week in Tampa for representatives of consumer advocacy groups from around the state to plan for the June 22 launch. He said there will also be house parties in various cities -- so far, Jacksonville and Tampa are scheduled -- to get volunteers energized. (This paragraph contains updated information.)
“We’re scrambling at the moment,” he said. “We’re excited.”
As for what will happen on June 22? Not marching bands and balloons, perhaps, but a lot of door-knocking, getting out into the community, Duran said. He hopes to have buttons and T-shirts ready to help the public identify the campaign volunteers.
Those who want to volunteer or just get more information can find it at Get Covered America’s website.