In about one month, a key part of the Affordable Care Act kicks off nationwide. The health insurance marketplace opens for enrollment -- and consumers can shop for an insurance plan from what could be hundreds of options. And this week, a Missouri-wide campaign to raise awareness about the marketplace begins, it's led by the Missouri Foundation for Health. States had the option to run their own marketplaces or let the federal government do it for them. Missouri, along with 26 other states, chose the latter.
Ryan Barker is the Foundation’s vice president for health policy. He says the federal government never expected to run the marketplaces in so many states and doesn’t have the funds to raise effective awareness about the program in all of those states. That's why the Foundation is stepping in.
"The foundation's board really said, you know, 'This is really important to our population and we're going to step forward and put some resources and staff time behind this,'" Barker said.
Estimates show more than 500,000 Missourians are eligible to get financial help buying insurance through the marketplace. The Missouri Foundation for Health is spending about $8 million dollars to disseminate information about the marketplace. About $5 million of those dollars have been awarded to 17 different regional nonprofits who will do the hands-on work to help Missourians sign up for the program. Meanwhile, the federal government has announced a $1.8 million grant to two other Missouri organizations to help Missourians navigate the marketplace.
The Affordable Care Act requires every American to have insurance coverage by January 1, 20-14, or face a penalty.