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Ohio Sen. Brown, OSU-NFL football star Eddie George push for ACA sign-ups

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As the March 31 deadline for signing up for healthcare coverage under the Affordable Care Act approaches next Monday, for the approximately 15 percent of Americans who are not already covered by a plan from their employer, the latest Kaiser Health Tracking Poll released Wednesday finds that six in ten of the uninsured are unaware of the March 31 deadline to sign up for coverage.

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The frustration and confusion from four years of constant attacks by Republicans on President Obama's signature healthcare law was all too clear in KHTP's report. About half those who say they discussed the law with friends or family (28 percent of the public overall) report hearing mostly bad things about the law in these discussions, while a much smaller share (5 percent of the public overall) say they heard mostly good things and the remainder say it was a mix of the two.

Meanwhile, Republicans have mocked the administration for not hitting an estimate of seven million sign-ups by the Congressional Budget Office. After the Department of Health and Human Services announced 4.2 million sign-ups through the end of February, the Avalere Health consulting firm projected that sign-ups would hit 5.4 million by the deadline. Another calculation on the final total said it would be closer to 6.22 million.

Brown, George team-up for ACA sign-ups

To help turn the tide in the remaining days before sign-ups end until later this year in November, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Ohio State University football star Eddie George held a news conference call to alert Ohioans to the looming deadline for enrolling in the 2014 health insurance marketplace.

More than five million Americans—and nearly 106,000 Ohioans—are now healthier and better protected through health insurance obtained on the new marketplace, Brown's office said in a media release. Many Ohioans still remain eligible for insurance through the marketplace, about 85 percent of whom are eligible to enroll with financial assistance.

"The health law has already helped millions of Ohioans receive quality care at an affordable price," Brown said following the call today. "But many more Ohioans are still eligible for enrollment in the health insurance marketplace," Brown said, adding that each of these Ohioans can receive valuable assistance from a health care navigator, and most are eligible for financial assistance.

"With less than one week remaining before the enrollment deadline, Ohioans should utilize these resources in order to get covered, live healthier lives, and be better protected," the second-term senator reelected in 2012 said.

As for George, a former football player at Ohio State and for the Tennessee Titans, one of the lessons he learned is about the importance of staying healthy. In 2006, Tennessee Governor Phil Bredsen appointed George as a spokesperson for the state’s GetFitTN program which is aimed at preventing Type 2 diabetes and promoting a healthier, more active lifestyle. George recently participated in a “Funny or Die” online sketch to promote health care enrollment.

When the KHTP reminded its survey candidates of the deadline and the fine for not getting covered, half of those who lack coverage as of mid-March say they plan to remain uninsured. Four in ten of the uninsured, meanwhile, are still unaware of the law’s subsidies to help lower-income Americans purchase coverage, and half don’t know about the law’s expansion of Medicaid.

Among the public overall, the general opinion of the ACA moved in a more positive direction this month for the first time since November’s post-rollout negative shift in opinion, the KHTP reported. While unfavorable views of the law continue to outpace favorable ones, the gap between negative and positive views now stands at eight percentage points, down from 16 percentage points in January.

Four years after the ACA’s passage, a little over half the public says they are tired of hearing the national debate over the law and want the country to focus more on other things, while four in ten say it’s important for the debate to continue. At the same time, six in ten want Congress to keep the law in place and either leave it as is or work to improve it, while three in ten would prefer to see it either repealed and replaced with a Republican alternative or repealed and not replaced.

Sen. Brown released Ohio specific data detailing, to date, the health law’s benefits for Ohioans. The health law has already ended lifetime caps on insurance coverage; covered both children and adults with pre-existing conditions; allowed young adults to stay on their parents’ insurance until their 26th birthday; offered free preventive care in new private insurance plans; and provided tax credits to small businesses to help them afford health coverage for their employees.

Sen. Brown announced last week that the health law helped more than 212,000 Ohio seniors and persons with disabilities save nearly $205,000 in 2013 on prescription drugs, with an average discount of $964.

Information provided by Brown's office notes that financial help is available for middle and low-income individuals to enroll if they don’t have meaningful employer-sponsored health coverage. This includes a family of four with an annual income of below $94,200, and single adults with an annual income below $45,960. Premiums for some Americans will be nearly 14 percent lower in 2014 than previously expected, according to a recent report by HHS.

For a single Ohioans, the average monthly premium for the lowest-cost silver plan is $304 and for the lowest cost bronze plan is $263. States with the lowest premiums have more than double the number of insurance companies offering plans compared to states with the highest premiums. Ohio consumers have an average of 46 health plans from which to choose in the marketplace.

The ACA ensures that the dollars Ohioans pay for health insurance are used for their medical care—rather than for executive bonuses and ad campaigns. Indeed, the law requires that insurance companies spend at least 80 percent of the premiums they collect from consumers on medical care. If they don’t meet this goal, Brown's office said they must give consumers a rebate.

In Ohio, that rebate is estimated to benefit more than 6,300 Ohioans this year from $487,000 in rebates. "Ohio families have faced unchecked hikes in their health insurance costs for years," Sen. Brown said. He added, "The law subjects insurance companies to new scrutiny if they raise prices by more than 10 percent; and the health law provided the state of Ohio $5.1 million to combat unjustifiable increases."

Brown has declined Congressional health insurance for nearly two decades—keeping a 1992 campaign promise to decline a health plan until similar coverage is available to all Americans. He entered the marketplace during the 2014 enrollment period that started October 1, 2013 and ends March 31, 2014.

George played running back for the Ohio State Buckeyes between 1992 and 1995, studying landscape architecture. In 1995, George became the sixth out of now seven Buckeyes to win the Heisman Trophy, awarded annually to college football’s greatest player. George holds Ohio State’s single game rushing record with 314 yards and in 2011 was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame.

As a professional, George was the 1996 Rookie of the Year, made four Pro Bowls, and is one of only 28 running backs in NFL history to rush for 10,000 yards or more. George is only the second running back in league history to achieve this feat without missing a start; the first being Cleveland Browns legend, Jim Brown. George currently works as a football analyst, actor, and landscape architect.

The news article Ohio Sen. Brown, OSU-NFL football star Eddie George push for ACA sign-ups appeared first on Columbus Government Examiner.

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