The Obama administration wants to add 7 million people to its new health insurance exchanges in the initial rollout and is launching a major public relations campaign to help in that effort, although many of the online marketplaces where Americans will buy insurance have yet to be created.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius introduced a new website
and telephone call center Monday saying, "The most daunting aspect is that people still don't know enough about what's going to change in the law and don't have enough information — still have some misinformation."
Sebelius told reporters that the call center — at 800-318-2596 — will be open 24 hours a day. The the website — www.healthcare.gov
— will explain new coverage options.
By late summer, both will have more details about prices and benefits of specific plans, reports The New York Times
Last week, a Government Accountability Office report found that the federal government and several states were behind schedule in setting up exchanges. Under Obamacare, the exchanges are to begin selling health insurance when when enrollment starts on Oct 1.
Coverage is to begin on Jan. 1. Most Americans will be required to have some form of health insurance.
The federal government will run the exchange in several states, and, Sebelius said, it is still negotiating with insurers Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Humana, and Kaiser Permanente for rates to "make sure that the plans offer consumers the best possible choices."
The administration is in talks with the National Football League, National Basketball Association, and other sports leagues about their potential role in an outreach campaign, and the president, Sebelius, and other officials are expected to travel around the country in coming months to drum up support for the new law.
"We're going to be driving our efforts toward that kind of enrollment effort," Sebelius said. "It's both about numbers and also hopefully getting a balanced risk pool."
The call center, she said, will have 9,000 employees in 11 states, while the website will be capable of handling more traffic than the 60 million visits a year to www.Medicare.gov.
Still, the task at hand remains enormous.
The latest Kaiser Health Tracking Poll
shows that 43 percent of Americans still view the healthcare law unfavorably.
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