Obamacare pitch coming to libraries, pulpits, malls

Jun 5, 2013

Working families without health insurance will get extra attention all over Washington this fall. Health organizations are getting $6 million in federal grants to send health recruiters to libraries, church pulpits, and shopping malls. 

Face-to-face marketing and in-person recruiting are needed, according to the masterminds behind the the new health-care law, because about 25% of the uninsured won’t be able to use the new website.

And the website is the centerpiece of the Obamacare insurance system, creating what they liken to a Travelocity or Expedia for buying discount health insurance. 

Unfortunately, many uninsured people have no computer, or they don’t speak English or Spanish (the two languages for Washington state's online system, named "Healthplanfinder"), or they have a disability. 

The federal grants are paying local organizations to offer in-person assistance.

"There are partners that will have portable tablets that will be going out to food banks, and will be standing in line with those families. And if they want to enroll right there, working with them live time, right where they're at," says Patty Hayes, Director of Community Health Services for Public Health – Seattle & King County., which is managing one of the grants.

You might find them at a library branch on Mondays, and a mall on Tuesdays, setting up a booth with their portable computer and printer.

The outreach workers first have to be trained and pass a certification test. Up to 80 different groups around the state will target different niches – so they could specialize in the Somali community of Tukwila, or farmworkers in Yakima, or homeless people in Bremerton. 

The registration launches October first. Washington's Health Benefits Exchange says it needs 130,000 people to sign up in the first three months, to meet its targets.

For many enrollees, insurance will be free, because of sliding scale subsidies. But, others will have to pay, and the strategists still haven’t figured out what message will convince a healthy 27-year-old to pay $100-plus every month for insurance, instead of spending on entertainment or recreation.

The Health Benefit Exchange estimates the percentage of Washingtonians without health coverage will drop from a high of nearly 17 percent in 2013 to an estimated five percent by 2017.