SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Nation/World

December 13, 2013

Data show health disparities among states

(Continued)

Federal grants in California have helped finance TV and radio commercials, billboards, bus signs and town hall meetings encouraging people to participate in the new health insurance marketplace.

That sort of promotion has been lacking in many of the states that have refused to run their own insurance marketplaces.

In Missouri, where a law forbids the government from implementing an insurance exchange, a coalition supporting the marketplace delayed its promotional campaign because of the technical troubles that marred the launch of the federal website.

“We didn’t want to drive people to a frustrating experience,” said Thomas McAuliffe, a policy analyst at the nonprofit Missouri Foundation for Health.

Now, advocates for the federal law face a steep challenge to implore people to sign up by Dec. 23, which is the deadline to be covered by health insurance policies that take effect in January.

“When we look at enrollment numbers, we’re obviously going to lag behind, because in many parts of the state there’s still a sense that Obamacare is not going to help me — even by the people it’s going to help the most,” McAuliffe said.

Heather McCabe, an assistant professor of social work at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, said the low enrollment numbers in many states raise questions about whether people are turned off by the problematic website, don’t know they’re eligible to use the exchange or have found the policies unaffordable.

“If the answer is that people still don’t understand what the exchange is and how to use it, then the answer is we need to do education and help people better access the system,” she said. “But if the answer is that the premiums are too high, then we have an issue that’s a little more difficult to deal with.”

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