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New Obamacare insurance marketplace outreach hits high gear

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With the new Obamacare health insurance marketplaces set to open Tuesday, efforts to increase awareness of them are hitting high gear.

A Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center event at 1:30 p.m. today in the Pennsylvania Capitol’s main rotunda will focus on explaining how the marketplace will work, what it means for Pennsylvanians who will be able to obtain health care for the first time in many years, how health providers have been preparing, and what help will be available for individuals shopping for health insurance.

The event will feature speakers including Pam Clark, vice president of finance and managed care for The Hospital & HealthSystem Association of Pennsylvania; Becca Raley, executive director of the Carlisle Area Health & Wellness Foundation; Ray Landis, advocacy manager of AARP of Pennsylvania; Patricia Fonzi, vice president of customer service and relationship management of the Family Health Council of Central PA; Jim Willshier, director of policy for Pennsylvania Association of Community Health Centers; and Sharon Ward, director of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center.

Resources the event will promote includes this infographic from Families USA, which has a list of Pennsylvania organizations that have received grants to operate in-person assistance programs.

SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania, an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union, is not connected to the federally funded outreach efforts but is launching a series of events and activities to include rallies, health fairs, community outreach days at festivals and shopping centers, and door to door canvasses in low-income neighborhoods to promote the marketplaces.

“Not only will SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania ‘Healthcare Champions’ educate community members who are eligible for the online exchanges, they will continue to push for Medicaid expansion so that approximately 600,000 additional uninsured Pennsylvanians will gain access to quality, affordable care,” said a news release. “Governor Corbett’s recently announced alternative plan to Medicaid expansion, which requires federal approval, has no clear timetable attached to its implementation. For those without insurance, including thousands of homecare attendants across the state, Corbett’s proposal could mean another year without coverage which puts their health and those they care for at risk.”

The individual marketplace will offer subsidies to qualifying enrollees who are between 100 and 400 percent of the federal poverty level and do not have sufficient and affordable insurance through an employer. The small-business health option program marketplace will offer coverage for small businesses, with some qualifying for tax credits; however, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services last week announced that some functionality on the SHOP marketplaces will be delayed.

Detailed information about the plans to be offered in Pennsylvania’s marketplaces has not yet been released.

A newly released survey of 476 members of the National Association for the Self-Employed, which represents the self-employed and micro-businesses, shows that 54 percent have not yet decided if they will purchase health insurance in the marketplaces. Sixty-four percent have not yet visited HealthCare.gov, which is home base for information about the marketplaces, and 100 percent said price will be a deciding factor in their decision. Sixty-seven percent said they expect to pay more for health care in 2014.

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