Administration plans new ObamaCare outreach tactics

Administration plans new ObamaCare outreach tactics
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The Obama administration is touting new outreach tactics that it says will help bring more young people into ObamaCare as a new signup period nears. 

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Officials say they have learned lessons from the first three years of signups in order to hone their messages. 

Bringing a higher percentage of young and healthy people, or increasing the overall enrollment number, would help ease insurer concerns about a smaller and sicker group of enrollees than expected. 

“We're gong to be smarter about how we're going to be reaching out to [consumers] to make sure they know what their options are,” Dr. Mandy Cohen, chief of staff for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said Thursday. “We fully expect for the marketplace to grow over this enrollment season.”

But the administration faces headwinds, including premium increases that could drive away some consumers. 

An analysis from S&P released Thursday found that enrollment will flatten to about the same as it was this year, and that some of the 15 percent of enrollees who did not receive financial assistance could drop out due to premium hikes. 

The administration will be sending new messages to people who previously paid the penalty for lacking insurance to encourage them to enroll. 

A partnership with Twitch, a social platform for gamers, aims to bring in more young and healthy people since the percentage of young enrollees has stayed flat in recent years. 

There has been some controversy over a new initiative that will select a new recommended plan for people whose previous insurer dropped out of the marketplace. The administration emphasizes that people can always choose a different plan if they want and can also choose not to enroll in the plan selected for them by declining to pay the first month's premium.

Mailings will increase from 800,000 to more than 10 million, officials said. 

There will be a new emphasis on messages right before deadlines, when many young people tend to enroll. Officials said they would triple TV impressions the week before the first deadline. 

An emphasis on the help available from financial assistance to make premiums more affordable is intended to bring in some of the roughly 7 million people who are eligible for financial help but are still uninsured, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Officials say many people are simply unaware that there is financial assistance, which for most enrollees means they can get coverage for $75 a month or less. 

The administration declined to say how much it will spend on outreach efforts, or whether the amount will be more or less than in previous years.