Non-profit groups rush to train Obamacare guides

Non-profit groups rush to train Obamacare guides

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A nationwide multi-million dollar media ad campaign is getting underway to promote enrollment into the federal Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. But with the start of enrollment just days away getting the word out is falling on the shoulders of the local non-profits who will sign people up.

For the past several days a group of people in a north Austin meeting room have been getting a crash course in Obamacare. When this training session wraps up, the 25 participants will become certified application counselors with Lone Star Circle of Care. They are being taught to be flexible because there will be several coverage options to consider.

"There's going to be a lot of families where the children qualify for Medicaid and CHIP and the parents qualify for Marketplace services and then helping to walk those families through an application process that involves both the Medicaid and CHIP," said Lone Star Circle of Care spokesperson Monica Crowley.

The non-profit is taking part in the Obamacare launch because it operates 30 medical clinics in the Austin metro area. Starting October 1, counselors like Keysha Walcott will start enrolling people into the new health insurance marketplace.

"Yes very intense, lots of new information lots of great information that hasn't been out there, seems like what we are hearing for the most part on the news is a lot of bad stuff but there is a lot of good stuff coming into this and I think people need to hear about that and we are going to help them," said Walcott.

The non-profit received a $400,000 federal grant to hire nine of the 25 application counselors. The rest of the cost is being absorbed by the organization.

A media blitz in Texas, about the start of this key part of Obamacare, has not yet started. State leaders refused to set up a Texas insurance marketplace, but in other states, that embraced the idea months ago, multimillion dollar campaigns are underway.

Oregon uses local musicians in its pitch. Producing the ads reportedly cost $3 million. Spots running in California, which look more like travel guides, are part of an $80 million campaign. In Minnesota, a giant likeness of folk hero Paul Bunyan wipes out on water skies and also gets a few checkups. This humorous approach reportedly comes with a $9 million price tag.

Reportedly, a Texas ad campaign will be part of a 13 state $12 million blitz. The ads may not start running until September 30. According to a statement released to FOX 7, the Center for Medical Services at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the agency plans to "run targeted ads during open enrollment and are currently finalizing the creative elements and placement."

Several Republicans have criticized the Ad campaign as a waste of taxpayer money. Until the Texas focused ads begin it will be up to the local groups to get the word out. That's why some of the non-profit counselors will be sent to neighborhood community meetings as part of a shoe leather campaign. The goal is to calm fears and address misgivings.

"If the information isn't out there being provided then of course it's frightening," said Crowley.

To address that websites like this one are also being set up. Those who click on can request information to be sent or they can schedule a time to speak to a counselor either on the phone or face to face.

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