September 15, 2011 in Nation/World

Group aims to boost insurance coverage

Nonprofit to promote availability of health benefits
Noam N. Levey Tribune Washington bureau

WASHINGTON – Giving a boost to the new health care 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 universal availability of health coverage and to help state leaders put in place procedures to simplify enrollment.

The law signed by President Barack 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 2 1/2 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 health care industry leaders, many of whom will likely 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: the AARP; the Catholic Health Association of the United States; Kaiser Permanente; the American Nurses Association; and the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.

Enroll America officials said they have 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

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