Obamacare faces enrollment challenges in its third year

A supporter of the Affordable Care Act celebrates after the Supreme Court up held the law in the 6-3 vote at the Supreme Court in Washington June 25, 2015. The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the nationwide availability of tax subsidies that are crucial to the implementation of President Barack Obama's signature healthcare law, handing a major victory to the president.  REUTERS/Joshua Roberts - RTR4YXO1

The third open enrollment period for Obamacare opened Sunday, with the Obama administration setting low expectations for enrollment growth. Politico profiles a town in Texas that demonstrates some of the challenges the administration faces in growing enrollment now that the law is in its third year of implementation.

In rural Borden County, 12 people signed up for Obamacare this year.
Livid over the government telling them they must buy something and loath to take anything that looks like a “handout, the uninsured here are likely to stay that way. As Obamacare’s third open enrollment season began Sunday, this rock-solid conservative community of about 650 people offers a window into the challenges health law advocates face to expand coverage around the country. […]

Low awareness about the benefits remains a challenge nationwide; a recent Robert Wood Johnson Foundation survey found that 59 percent of uninsured people lack knowledge about the tax

even after two open enrollment periods. Addressing worries about affordability will be a major part of the messaging. That’s why financial assistance will be emphasized in advertising for the 2016 season.

Lack of awareness of the subsidies is one factor. Entrenched political opposition is another, particularly in a state like Texas where the only thing residents have heard about the law from their representatives is negative. For instance, Borden County is represented by Rep. Randy Neugebauer, “who is known nationally for yelling ‘baby killer’ as Congress debated the Affordable Care Act five years ago.” So, yeah, not a particularly positive message being heard out there.
The cost is a factor as well, though. For example, one Texan interviewed is Rika Law who actually took the step of window-shopping on Healthcare.gov, but “said the plans cost too much for her family of four.” She didn’t know that subsidies are available to make it more affordable. “I understand the benefit of having it,” she said. “When you’re trying to juggle everyday bills, that’s when it becomes a problem.” But the stigma of being one of very few people in a community benefiting from the evil Obamacare could be an issue, too: “It’s not something that comes up in conversation among neighbors at the Coyote’s café, says Becky Justice, adding she ‘can’t imagine’ who any of them are.”

Thanks, Republicans.

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