28 February 2024

Health-Law Advocates to Tweak ACA

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Supporters and advocates of the Affordable Care Act say they learned lessons from last year's sign-up effort, when they persuaded a few million uninsured people to buy coverage. They plan to incorporate those lessons into the marketing campaign for the next enrollment period, which begins in mid-November.

A Tougher Audience 

More than eight million people got private insurance for 2014 through the law's insurance exchanges, which were plagued with technical problems when they opened in October 2013 but stabilized toward the end of the six-month sign-up period. It isn't yet clear how many of those people were uninsured previously as opposed to switching plans, but several recent polls have suggested a noticeable dent in the number of U.S. uninsured, which totaled about 50 million people before the law's passage.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has projected that 13 million people will use the exchanges this time around, five million more than did in 2014. But advocates won't have as much time to reach them because the enrollment period is shorter, starting in mid-November 2014 and ending mid-February 2015.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the federal agency in charge of implementing the law and operating exchanges for the states that declined to set up their own, says it plans to make tweaks to its marketing message. CMS officials said that they believed the aggressive marketing campaign around the launch of the insurance marketplaces last year was effective and that people who saw the ads were more likely to know about HealthCare.gov and shop for coverage.

Meanwhile, Enroll America, a coalition of the law's supporters and sign-up activists, plans to step up in-person assistance after realizing how important that was last year. The group says it will launch an online tool to tell people where in their area they can find this kind of help.

Using the Stick 

Enroll America may make other changes to its strategy after a study it commissioned from PerryUndem Research/Communication, a polling firm frequently used by health-law supporters, found that as many as four in 10 of the newly enrolled said they wouldn't have signed up for coverage if the law hadn't required them to.

Supporters of the law previously had played down the health law's mandate in favor of emphasizing the quality and affordability of available health plans, saying they preferred using carrots instead of sticks to persuade people to sign up. Now they've concluded the mandate has to be part of the conversation. The fine for not having coverage is $95, or 1% of family income, this year, but it is set to grow to $695 per adult, or 2.5% of family income, by 2016.

Doubts Remain 

Even with the retooled marketing campaign and its emphasis on deadlines and testimonials, some groups remain worried about the timing of the 2015 enrollment period.

Tax-preparation firms such as Jackson Hewitt Inc., which played a big role in helping people enroll last year, say the shorter sign-up period overlaps significantly with the holiday season, when people are distracted and financially stretched.

The tax firms also say that some uninsured people may not realize they have to pay a penalty for 2014 until they come in to file their returns in April. At that point it will be too late to enroll for 2015.

Click here to access the full article on The Wall Street Journal. 

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