Education Department Won't Play Role in Obamacare Rollout

Thursday, 01 Aug 2013 12:27 PM

By Courtney Coren

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The Obama Administration is apparently not prepared to use the beginning of the new school year later this month as a way to educate parents about the new healthcare reform law.

According to Politico, some observers see the failure to utilize "back-to-school" information packets as a major mistake because it could help spread the word to millions of Americans about Obamacare programs and how to enroll.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan told Politico his department has no plans to take a proactive role in advocating for Obamacare, but is willing to help if asked. The problem is, he said, "No one has asked us."

The Department of Health and Human Services does plan to work with "state and local partners" to help disperse written and online materials aimed at educating parents about using preventive care to help children and families, Politico reported. But that effort apparently will not include groups that are normally used to disseminate information through the nation's schools, including the National Parent Teachers Association.

Abiah Weaver, spokeswoman for the PTA, said, "National PTA does not have any plans to assist in the dissemination of information about the Affordable Care Act."

But some states and local school districts are acting on their own. In Los Angeles, for example, high school juniors and seniors are being trained on how to help get information about Obamacare out to their families and communities.

Healthcare advocates see the involvement of schools as a no brainer, especially since they were used to reach out to parents with information on Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program.

"Putting a piece of paper into the packet . . . is not a big deal," said Bruce Lesley, president of First Focus, an advocacy group for children. "I haven't heard of any national, organized context for it the way we've been really successful at with Medicaid and CHIP."

Republicans, however, are against the schools being used to promote Obamacare.

"What authority does the Department of Education have to disseminate information and assist with the implementation of the president's healthcare law?" Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander, a former education secretary himself, wrote in a letter to Duncan in July. "How do the Department of Education's activities further the education of our nation's students?"

Alexander told Politico that teachers have enough mandates from Washington to worry about.

"They don't need another one, especially not one that's outside of their mission as educators, and one for which Congress hasn't appropriated any funds," he added.

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