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New coalition wants to find you health insurance

A widely diverse group of national organizations has come together to promote enrollment in new health insurance options that will become available in 2014 under the national health care reform law.

Enroll America's mission is straightforward: Secure coverage for as many of the eligible uninsured as possible. But the group's membership roster is unusual because it represents such different perspectives  -- from Families USA, a consumer advocacy group and proponent of the health care reform law to the National Association of Health Underwriters, which praised a House bill earlier this year calling for the law's repeal. The group also includes health insurance companies and associations representing hospitals, pharmaceutical industries, physicians, community health centers, free clinics and people with major illnesses and disabilities.

health insurance enrollmentRachel Klein, Enroll America’s executive director, calls the gathering unprecedented and historic. "I've never seen a group like this come together," she says.

National Association of Health Underwriters CEO Janet Trautwein says her group has long supported measures to help uninsured people find coverage they need. "Participation in Enroll America is just one more way our members show their dedication as consumer advocates and educational resources," she said in a prepared statement.

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Helping the uninsured brings everyone together

The key to the coalition’s success will be Enroll America's laser-like focus on enrollment. Klein says the coalition will keep to its mission and will stay away from divisive issues.

"There's no other issue in health care coverage where you could bring all these folks together," she says. "Enrollment is the one thing all of them can coalesce around."

Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, tens of millions of uninsured Americans will be eligible for more-affordable health insurance coverage in 2014. Under the act, they will get sliding-scale tax credits when they buy private health insurance through new marketplaces or through expansion of the federal Medicaid program. The Congressional Budget Office projects 32 million people who are now uninsured will have health insurance by 2019 due to the new reform laws. A recent U.S. Census Bureau report estimated 49 million Americans went without health insurance last year.

Providing access to coverage is one thing, getting people to enroll is another. Enroll America doesn't want complicated enrollment procedures and a lack of public awareness to get in the way of people receiving the benefits to which they're entitled.

The health insurance mission

The organization has two goals to carry out its mission. The first is to encourage states to adopt best practices to simplify and streamline enrollment for health insurance programs. Already the coalition has established a Best Practices Institute to tackle the job of making the enrollment process easy for consumers to understand. Second, Enroll America will conduct a public information and advertising campaign in 2013 and 2014 to inform the public about medical insurance options and how to enroll.

Unveiled Sept. 14, Enroll America has been in the works for more than a year. Families USA Executive Director and Vice President Ron Pollack came up with the idea before Congress passed federal health reform in March 2010 and was the driving force in bringing the groups together. All the coalition members are equal partners, says Klein, a former deputy director of health policy at Families USA.

So far the coalition has raised $6 million among its members and plans to raise more money. Klein projects further fund raising to produce a sum in the "eight figures" to support the Best Practices Institute and another sum in the "eight or nine figures" to pay for the public information campaign.

Groups represented on Enroll America's board are the American Hospital Association, Blue Shield of California, Catholic Health Association of the United States, Families USA, Kaiser Permanente, Maryland Citizens' Health Initiative, National Association of Community Health Centers and Teva Pharmaceuticals. Another 34 health care groups and health insurance companies are members of the group's advisory council.

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