Campaign aims to sign up Americans for health insurance

Giving a boost to the new healthcare law, a coalition of hospitals, insurers, drug makers and consumer advocates is joining a multimillion-dollar campaign to get Americans signed up for health insurance starting in 2014.

The new nonprofit group, called Enroll America, plans a state-by-state effort to publicize the expanded availability of health coverage and to help state leaders put in place procedures to simplify enrollment.

The law signed by President Obama last year requires most Americans to get insurance starting in 2014. At the same time, the law bans insurers from denying coverage to those who are sick and provides hundreds of millions of dollars in government subsidies to help low- and middle-income Americans purchase insurance.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has estimated that an additional 32 million Americans will get insurance by 2019.


But getting people to sign up in 21/2 years remains one of the major challenges confronting those working to implement the law.

“We need to develop a culture of coverage,” said Paul Markovich, chief operating officer of Blue Shield of California, one of Enroll America’s leading members.

That prompted Families USA, an influential consumer group and key backer of the law, to reach out to healthcare industry leaders, many of whom will probably profit from the coverage expansion.

Wednesday, the coalition announced that 42 companies and organizations had signed on to the effort, including several industry leaders such as Aetna, Express Scripts and Teva Pharmaceuticals.

Others in the coalition include: AARP, the Catholic Health Assn. of the United States, Kaiser Permanente, the American Nurses Assn. and the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.

“Ensuring that people have the health coverage they need will provide clear benefits, including better health, greater productivity and reduced cost burden on private businesses,” said Rich Umbdenstock, president of the American Hospital Assn., another leading member.

Enroll America officials said they had raised more than $6 million, including $1.5 million from the insurance industry, $2.5 million from the pharmaceutical industry, $1.3 million from foundations and $825,000 from hospitals.

Rachel Klein, the group’s executive director, said Enroll America was seeking more than $10 million more to move ahead with its campaign.