Insurance Companies Join The Final Push For Obamacare Enrollment

CREDIT: AP Photo/Gerry Broome

Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina holds a promotional event to pitch plans to consumers

With less than five weeks left before the deadline to sign up for health plans during the Affordable Care Act’s first open enrollment season, insurance companies are ramping up their advertising and outreach efforts in an attempt to boost consumer demand and sell more of their policies through Obamacare’s marketplaces.

“They’re going to put a lot of their gunpowder behind this final run to the deadline,” said Scott Roskowski, an executive for a trade group for local advertisers, in an interview with The Hill. “The insurers themselves have substantially increased their advertising budgets to attract more of the uninsured.”

Big name companies such as Blue Cross Blue Shield are launching outreach campaigns through public events and advertisements in states like North Carolina and Idaho in order to teach the uninsured about Obamacare and hawk their individual marketplace policies.

That effort could provide a critical boost to nonprofit organizations such as Get Covered America in the final sprint to enroll the uninsured under the health law. At a GCA training session last weekend, volunteers and staff told ThinkProgress that some of the biggest challenges to getting those who would benefit most from Obamacare to sign up for plans include widespread misunderstandings, a lack of knowledge about financial assistance available through the ACA, and pervasive skepticism about the law.

As the Hill notes, insurers may have an advantage over groups like GCA thanks to their brand name — something that may appeal to uninsured people who don’t understand or trust health reform.

Insurance companies have a major financial incentive to enroll as many people as possible — particularly healthier and younger Americans — before the March 31 enrollment deadline. A wider and more diversified risk pool is expected to push down costs in the marketplaces while bringing insurers more business.

At a health care conference sponsored by JP Morgan last month, insurance company executives described themselves as being “all-in” on the ACA.

“Despite the near-term uncertainty, we believe exchanges will be growing as a big part of the market over time,” WellPoint Inc. CEO Joseph Swedish told conference attendees. “We are more focused on the end game of exchanges than the twists and turns in the near term.”

Over four million Americans have enrolled in private health plans through Obamacare’s marketplaces to date. An estimated six million Americans are projected to sign up this year — a number that balloons to 24 million over the next 10 years.