HHS chief rallies docs to boost ObamaCare enrollment

Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell is calling on thousands of family physicians across the country to boost ObamaCare sign-ups, less than one month before open enrollment begins.

“We're going to need your help and your support just as much as we did last year, if not more,” Burwell said in prepared remarks to the American Academy of Family Physicians.

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"We hope you'll encourage [your patients] to stay covered, and we hope you’ll encourage any uninsured patients to go ahead and take that important step and get covered,” she said.

The second year of ObamaCare enrollment will begin Nov. 15 and continue for three months — far less time for people to purchase coverage than last fall. The shorter enrollment period has piled on pressure for the Obama administration to re-enroll people who signed up last year, in addition to reaching the millions of Americans who remain uninsured.

She stressed that people with insurance will rely less on emergency care and be more likely to receive preventive care such as yearly check-ups and immunizations.

Though preventive care is a key part of family medicine, Burwell said doctors in the field have been unable to advocate that kind of care for people without insurance.

“As family physicians, you know how hard it is for your patients when they don't have insurance, or have coverage that's unaffordable or runs out just when they need it the most,” she said. 

“I know that you've all done the best you could in a system where, for far too long, too many of the people you served were either uninsured or underinsured.”

Burwell’s remarks are part of the Obama administration’s broader effort to change the way the country spends its healthcare dollars. 

For too long, she said, the U.S. healthcare system has “under-delivered on affordability, access and quality.”

But she said she hopes that family doctors will lead the way in reforming the system, urging the doctors to prevent necessary tests and treatments that are regularly given around the country.

Burwell also used her speech to urge doctors and nurses to educate themselves and their patients about Ebola.

"We need each of you to educate yourselves on [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] materials and recommendations so that you can identify potential cases," she said.