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Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

Obama Addresses ACA Enrollment in State of the Union; Says 9 Million Covered

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President Obama spoke at length about his signature health law in this week’s State of the Union address, touting its consumer protections and putting in a plug for Americans to enroll in coverage.

More than nine million Americans have enrolled in health coverage through Medicaid or the exchanges since the start of open ACA enrollment on October 1, said Obama. This includes more than 3 million who have signed up on the exchanges and 6.3 million enrolled in Medicaid. The numbers do not necessarily reflect reductions in the number of uninsured Americans: preliminary reports indicate that many of those who have enrolled in the exchanges so far had coverage from another source in 2013, and many Medicaid enrollees had also been covered by Medicaid in the prior year. The Obama administration has expressed optimism that enrollment numbers will continue to rise during the remainder of the open enrollment period, which ends March 31. Obama exhorted Americans who are uninsured to get informed about their new insurance options and sign up for coverage.

Enrolling in coverage will be particularly important for individuals with addiction or mental illness, who are at greater risk for remaining uninsured despite being eligible for new coverage options. The National Health Council, a nonpartisan coalition of organizations serving people with chronic illnesses and their families, has launched a website, Putting Patients First, to help patients estimate their insurance costs and pick the right exchange plan. PPF’s Cost Estimator tool allows anyone to enter their general medical information (such as how many doc visits they anticipate in the next year, regular medications, income level, etc.) and guides them to the specific plan level best suited for them to ensure the most coverage possible with the lowest out-of-pocket costs.

The PPF website also includes answers to commonly asked questions about the insurance exchanges, information about how to get help paying for insurance coverage, and condition-specific resources for individuals with cancer and diabetes.