Los Angeles: Nahla Kayali is a foot soldier for Obamacare.
She is among the first wave of 2,000 community organisers in California getting trained to persuade more than 1 million uninsured people in the state to sign up for subsidised health coverage under President Barack Obama’s reform law.
Kayali and her cohorts begin their mission next month, armed with flyers, pamphlets and a small army of volunteers who speak 13 languages.
"We’re getting consumers and small businesses the tools to enroll, and trying to eliminate the barriers to enrolling," said Kayali, 55, who runs a non-profit that provides social services to Arab Christians and Muslims in Orange County, just south of Los Angeles. "We’re going to break down the stigma - any barrier, whether it’s a language barrier or a cultural barrier."
Among U.S. states, California will have the largest force deployed in a massive national outreach effort costing hundreds of millions of dollars. These thousands of foot soldiers will have to promote the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in the face of widespread political opposition and public skepticism.
Their work is key to the success of the new law in its first year, when the Obama administration seeks to enroll as many as 7 million people, including 2.7 million young and healthy people who are cheaper to insure, for 2014.
Oregon and Vermont have already begun training their enrollment advisers, while Connecticut and Washington are just starting up and other states, including Illinois and New York, will commence later this summer.
The playbook for these ambassadors focuses on two main points: First, tell people how they will benefit from Obamacare; second, stay away from divisive political talk.
"There is a major effort to try to educate Americans," said Michael Sparer, head of American health policy and management at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. "There are extraordinary levels of confusion over what the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, does and does not do."
The outreach advisers will counsel Americans on what kind of coverage they need, what kind of subsidies they may qualify for and how to sign up. Some are paid through federal grants or by private organizations, while others are volunteers. Hospital staff, already schooled in helping uninsured patients determine whether they are eligible for government programs like Medicaid, are expected to lend a hand.
California is spending $140 million on enrolling consumers and small business owners for the state’s new healthcare exchange, including $86 million worth of advertising time.
27 July 2013.