Obamacare’s state-level insurance marketplaces open for enrollment on October 1, and state officials are trying to get out the word about the new health care options that will be available soon. But many uninsured Americans still aren’t aware that they’ll be able to qualify for assistance to buy new plans under Obamacare, and lots of people in general remain confused about what the health law means for them. Health reform skeptics aren’t convinced that the marketplaces’ roll-out will be smooth enough to successfully reach all of those people.
If Washington State is any indication, however, some of those fears may be overblown. Washington hopes to target about one million uninsured residents with information about signing up for Obamacare. And it’s off to a relatively good start, as state officials there say that hundreds of people have contacted them this week asking for more details about the new Obamacare plans.
On Tuesday, Washington officials opened the new call center for its state-level marketplace, which will allow residents to dial in and ask questions about their options for coverage under Obamacare. The CEO of Washington’s new insurance marketplace, Richard Onizuka, said the first call came in even before the call center officially opened to the public that day.
And it didn’t slow down from there. There were about 100 calls in the first hour alone. In total, about 60 customer services representatives fielded 900 calls about Obamacare on Tuesday, most of them focused on eligibility and enrollment for the health law’s new insurance plans. They got another 650 calls on Wednesday.
“A lot of the folks who were calling in seemed to be very pleasantly surprised at what they would be able to qualify for in terms of financial assistance,” Onizuka said. Many recent reports about the upcoming premiums for Obamacare plans have downplayed the effect of the financial assistance that will be offered to people based on their income level — but most Americans will actually qualify for some kind of federal subsidy to help them purchase health care on the marketplaces.
Call centers in other states across the country also opened to the public this week, as part of a coordinated campaign to ramp up enrollment efforts before October hits. But GOP-led crusades against Obamacare are slowing down some of those initiatives. Health reform opponents have worked hard to block the law at every turn — and now that the marketplaces are about to launch, they’ve turned their attention to obscuring information about them from the public. Republicans have created additional red tape that makes it harder for the people tasked with educating Americans about Obamacare to do their jobs effectively, undermined public awareness campaigns about the health law, criticized nonprofit groups for partnering with the administration to sign people up for insurance plans, and even enacted state laws to prevent local officials from helping to establish an insurance marketplace.