At a recent insurance industry meeting, federal officials directing the rollout rattled off a dizzying list of deadlines. Public outreach will begin in earnest this summer and early fall, said Gary Cohen, head of the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight.
The government sees three main groups of potential customers for the new insurance markets, he said.
There's the "active sick and worried," people who are uninsured or have pre-existing medical conditions. Under the law, insurers will no longer be able to turn the sick away.
There's the healthy and young. "They feel invincible, they don't feel a need for health insurance," said Cohen.
Finally, there's the passive and unengaged. "For these people, a significant education effort needs to happen," he said.
To keep premiums affordable, the government will need to sign up lots of people from the last two groups to balance those in poor health, who will have a strong motivation to join.
The official heading consumer outreach for the rollout, Julie Bataille, acknowledges the challenge but says she's confident.
"This is a really an enormous opportunity for us to change the conversation around health care and help individuals understand the benefits they can get," she said.
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