Melissa Fox said. The department also is looking through materials it may
provide to the public, she said.
When Gov. Tom Corbett decided against running a state-based exchange earlier this year, that left less opportunity for Pennsylvanians to learn about the law and their options. States that operate their own exchanges have access to funding to hire additional advisers called "assisters." Pennsylvania, like other states that chose a federally run exchange, does not have access to that funding.
Private organizations are deeply involved in getting the word out.
Working with the former head of the Lehigh County Conference of Churches, the Rev. Christine Nelson, Basist will hold workshops beginning next week for employers and agencies. The meetings will be held from 8-9 a.m. July 16, 18 and 25 and from 4-5 p.m. July 23 at Kistler Tiffany's offices, 1605 N. Cedar Crest Blvd., Suite 410.
In addition, the Pennsylvania Health Access Network is mobilizing its supporters and held public meetings in Philadelphia and western Pennsylvania, said Antoinette Kraus, director. She said promoters will be at county fairs throughout the summer and at libraries and other public places.
"Our organization is out in every corner of the state doing presentations to inform ... the public that open enrollment is coming in October and the importance of getting covered," Kraus said.
Enroll America last week established a Pennsylvania presence by naming Bill England statewide director. He is developing a plan to raise awareness statewide about Obamacare and intends to open a second office in western Pennsylvania.
Like the health access network, Enroll America will tap into faith-based communities, as it did at a recent meeting in Philadelphia, and human service providers, as it will at an upcoming meeting in Scranton, England said.
The organization also intends to recruit "hundreds" of volunteers to staff tables at community events, go door-to-door and work phone banks, he added. "We'll be using every campaign tool to get the word out," England said. "As we start to reach a critical mass and have enough people talking, that's when it becomes potent."
As for the fierce political opposition Obamacare has generated, England said his group is about one thing only. "We're not going after any issues that are raised beyond enrolling people" into a health insurance plan, he said.
Naturally, insurance companies have their own campaigns and plans.
On July 20, Highmark Blue Shield will open its second retail store in the Lehigh Valley, where consumers can get personal service shopping for a health plan, pay bills and more. The store will be in the Shops at Cedar Point in South Whitehall.
Highmark has a multi-faceted advertising campaign underway, including public speaking engagements, online programs and television ads now running locally, said spokesman Leilyn Perri.
Similarly, Capital BlueCross, which has a retail store in the Promenade Shops at Saucon Valley, is trying to reach new customers. "As a community health plan, we have -- since our inception 75 years ago -- always advocated that people should have health insurance," Public Relations Manager Joe Butera said.
Aetna spokesman Walt Cherniak identified the highest hurdle that advocates and insurers have to overcome: The majority of people they need to find, educate and enroll have little or no experience with health insurance.
"Aetna recognizes that for many consumers, shopping on an exchange may be their first exposure to health insurance," he said. "Our focus will be helping consumers understand their options and make informed decisions with resources, including our website, aetna.com, and customer training to assist consumers."
All of the above will be needed for consumers to work through a confusing business, said Basist, the benefits consultant.
"It's bewildering to the average person," he said. "You can get lost in the abyss. We'll get you enrolled if that's what works for you."
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