The Obama administration has tossed a Hail Mary pass to the National Football League in hopes the gridiron stars will help educate consumers about this fall's other main attraction: the opening of new state health insurance exchanges, now officially renamed "marketplaces."
No word yet on whether Carrie Underwood will be wailing, "Are you ready for some Obamacare?" when the NFL season gets underway, but Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius sees pro sports as natural partners to promote the new health insurance portals.
"The NFL is enthusiastically engaged … and they see health promotion as a good thing for them and for the country," she said following the announcement.
The administration also has approached the National Basketball Association, Major League Soccer and other professional sports to help attract young people to the new marketplaces.
Young, healthy policyholders, aka the "young invincibles," will be critical to help balance the health insurance market's new individual and small-business insurance pools once insurers are prohibited from rejecting applicants or charging higher rates based on gender and pre-existing conditions beginning in 2014. The administration hopes to sign up 7 million people via the new state marketplaces during the inaugural open enrollment period from Oct. 1 through March 31, 2014.
It's all part of a multitiered educational campaign to bring American consumers up to speed on the mechanics and advantages of logging onto the new state marketplaces.
Toward that goal, Sebelius also unveiled the new, improved Healthcare.gov site that will serve as the default marketplace in 35 states that opted not to develop their own. The whole site translates from English into Spanish at a click of a mouse. While it doesn't officially open to sell health insurance until Oct. 1, the new portal provides tutorials on basic health insurance terms, coverage options, essential health benefits and how to shop for coverage, as well as online links to state marketplaces that won't default to Healthcare.gov.
While you'll have to wait until fall to fill out an online marketplace application to find out if you qualify for a federal health premium subsidy, you can get a rough estimate today by using the Kaiser Family Foundation's subsidy calculator at KFF.org/interactive/subsidy-calculator/.
On another front, the feds also announced a partnership with the American Library Association to help consumers use public computers at the nation's libraries to access the state health marketplaces.
AARP simultaneously launched an outreach program with the Hispanic Federation, National Council of La Raza, Esperanza and the League of United Latin American Citizens to spread the marketplace message in Hispanic communities. In addition to providing educational materials, the coalition plans to train "promotores" (promoters) to help Spanish-speaking citizens obtain coverage through the marketplaces. For information on these programs, visit HealthLawAnswers.org or MiLeydeSalud.org.
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Jay MacDonald is a Bankrate contributing editor and co-author of "Future Millionaires' Guidebook," an e-book by Bankrate editors and reporters.