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Thursday, October 24, 2013

Congressional Lawmakers Educate Their Constituents on New Health Insurance Options

Christina Amutah

Staff Writer

In order to get as many uninsured and underinsured Americans as possible signed up for health insurance through the marketplaces, some especially cognizant congressional lawmakers have taken steps to educate, engage, and enroll their constituents. While the Affordable Care Act funds navigators and other programs to help with enrollment, those groups can’t do it alone. Some members of Congress are playing the important role of making sure people know about the new health insurance options.

Rep. Jan Schakowsky of Illinois took a traditional yet effective approach to reaching out to her constituents by holding a health expo. She hosted the event on October 5—just a few days after open enrollment began. This allowed consumers who had already started signing up for health insurance to ask questions about the process. To reach key constituents, the event was held in a senior center and included staff from the American Indian Center.

In a similar but more targeted effort, Rep. Rush Holt of New Jersey offered a workshop in late September for small business owners. Speakers from the Small Business Association and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) discussed what small business owners should expect during open enrollment. Small businesses play a vital role in helping insure millions of Americans, so it is especially important for them to understand the new health insurance options under the Affordable Care Act.

Rep. Doris Matsui of California used technology to get the message out through online town halls. At the end of September, Rep. Matsui hosted town halls where constituents could ask questions by posting on her Facebook page or by tweeting with #AskDoris on Twitter. Through this format, she answered questions from constituents about everything from the employer mandate to Medicare. Using social media, Rep. Matsui made it easy for consumers to get the information they need.

In order to make sure that as many people as possible benefit from the Affordable Care Act, it’s going to take concerted efforts from all stakeholders—from federal lawmakers to next door neighbors—to make sure people understand how to sign up for the new health insurance options. Everyone has a part to play on the road to health care for all!