Local officials asked to help on health law

New York Times News Service /

The White House is recruiting mayors, county commissioners and other local officials to promote and carry out President Barack Obama’s health care law in states like Florida and Texas where governors are hostile to it.

The effort comes as the administration is intensifying its campaign to publicize new health insurance options and to persuade consumers, especially healthy young people, to sign up for coverage when open enrollment starts Oct. 1.

To bring people into the insurance market, the White House is using techniques it used to mobilize voters during Obama’s re-election campaign, with a particular focus on Hispanics, who are much more likely than other Americans to be uninsured. About 7 in 10 Hispanic voters nationally and 6 in 10 in Florida voted for Obama last year, according to exit polls by Edison Research.

White House officials say the law will provide 10 million uninsured Hispanics with an opportunity to get affordable insurance. They account for 40 percent of the 25 million uninsured Americans expected to gain coverage in the next three years.

Texas and Florida refused to set up regulated marketplaces, known as exchanges, for the sale of subsidized insurance, leaving the task to the federal government. And they have refused to expand Medicaid to provide insurance for low-income people who do not already qualify.

But many local officials said they would help people take advantage of the law. The chief executive of Dallas County, Texas, Judge Clay Lewis Jenkins, a Democrat, said: “The exchange is a tremendous opportunity to reduce the number of uninsured. It’s important that we move aggressively, as soon as possible, to get information to our citizens in a format they can use.”

The White House said the administration had no choice but to bypass the governor’s office in states where GOP governors were balking.

And with open enrollment just months away, the White House and its allies are making a renewed effort to improve public perceptions of the law. Organizing for Action, a grass-roots group that grew out of Obama’s re-election campaign, is running television advertisements that promote the law.

Enroll America, a nonprofit group led by veterans of the the Obama campaign and White House, said it would flood neighborhoods with volunteers, encouraging people to “get covered.” And it is trying to enlist sports stars and celebrities as spokespeople.