- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 12, 2014

A crucial nonprofit ally of the White House said Wednesday it will be much harder to get uninsured Americans to enroll in Obamacare’s second round, suggesting that all the easiest populations have already been reached.

Enroll America, which has taken the lead on trying to build support for the Affordable Care Act, said it has $20 million on hand to help consumers enroll — or $7 million less than the group had going into the first round last year.

But organizers said they still believe they have the funding and partnerships to reach 1.4 million potential new customers in the 11 states on which they are focusing.

This year’s sign-up period begins Saturday and presents new challenges for advocates. While the insurance exchanges’ websites should work better this time, the window to sign up is two months shorter. And not only will the system have to handle new customers, but it will also need to re-enroll millions who signed up the first time.

“We are not expecting this to be a walk in the park,” Enroll America President Anne Filipic said in a conference call.

The first round of enrollment ran from Oct. 1, 2013, through this April, and the Obama administration reported 8 million signed up, and of those more than 7 million paid their premiums and actually got coverage.

But this week the administration scaled down expectations for the second go-around, saying it expects fewer than 10 million total — far less than the Congressional Budget Office’s estimate of 13 million.

Enroll America said the biggest challenge will be funneling people into the right channel based on whether they are re-enrolling or signing up for the first time.

Since the first round of enrollment ended, the organization has maintained a staff of 200 people in the 11 states where it prioritizes.

Of the $20 million it raised for this year’s efforts, about 66 percent came from philanthropic sources, 17 percent from hospitals and 17 percent from other parts of the health care sector or from individual donors.

The group also unveiled a Web tool — the Get Covered Connector — that lets people set up appointments with assistants who can help them enroll in Medicaid or in a plan on the exchanges.

The appointments will be made through partnering organizations that must pay a “nominal fee” to use the tool, according to Ms. Filipic. Nineteen organizations in 14 states have signed on, but the group expects the number of participants to rise.

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