States, feds slow to educate public about exchanges

With only six months left before health insurance exchanges begin open enrollment, state and federal officials face an uphill battle in reaching and educating consumers about these new online marketplaces.

If enough young and healthy consumers don't enroll in a health plan sold through the exchanges, costs will increase for insurers and premiums will rise for consumers, according to a Kaiser Health News/Washington Post article.

However, most consumers are unaware of exchanges' benefits, including whether they're eligible for government subsidies. A survey recently released by concluded that 90 percent of consumers don't know when open enrollment in exchanges begins, and only 10 percent said they're "very knowledgeable" about the reform law.

"We have reason to be worried because six months before the start of open enrollment, most members of the general public have no idea how the marketplaces will affect them," Paul Gionfriddo, a consultant who led a Florida group to help the uninsured, told KHN/Post.

Although the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, which will be operating at least 33 exchanges in different states, hasn't publicly disclosed its plans to market the exchanges, some states have begun their outreach strategies. Despite these efforts, though, some experts still believe states must increase and enhance their outreach to be truly effective.

"States are a bit behind the ball from where they should be" on exchange outreach, Michael Kolber, an attorney with Manatt, Phelps & Phillips who previously worked at HHS, told AIS Health. "Clearly the issue here is getting broad enrollment in the exchanges."

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius attributed some of the delay in outreach to politics. "We find ourselves still having sort of state-by-state political battles," she said Monday at the Harvard School of Public Health. "So getting that word out and setting up the infrastructure has been more complicated." But she also said HHS is "very closely" monitoring each state's exchange-related progress, reported Politico.

To learn more:
- read the Kaiser Health News/Washington Post article
- see the AIS Health article
- check out the survey
- read the Politico article

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