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HIX Fate Tied to Payers' Education Initiatives

Christopher Cheney, for HealthLeaders Media, February 19, 2014

The deadline to buy insurance for 2014 on the public health insurance exchanges is March 31. Reaching out to the uninsured and convincing them to enroll is a make-or-break effort for the hallmark federal healthcare reform program.

With the troubled rollout of the healthcare.gov website and a range of other post-launch challenges, educating potential public exchange enrollees has become a focal point for federal officials and insurers.

Last week during a conference call featuring the January enrollment numbers for the public exchanges nationwide, HHS spokesperson Julie Bataille said federal officials have been organizing outreach activities across the country for months. The effort has resulted in about 2,000 public education events since October.

Outreach work has been intense in states where there is a high percentage of previously uninsured residents, Bataille said. "There's a lot of work we are doing to raise awareness in Texas in particular," she said. "We are very [committed] that the people of Texas are aware of the options that are available."

During the conference call, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced 3.1 million people had enrolled for health insurance in the public exchanges through the end of January. Last June, Sebelius said enrolling seven million people through the public exchanges was a "realistic target."

The deadline to enroll for 2014 health insurance in the public exchanges is March 31, so reaching Sebelius' target is probably unrealistic at this point.

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