POSTED: Wednesday, July 17, 2013 - 9:00am
UPDATED: Wednesday, July 17, 2013 - 9:04am
NATIONAL NEWS (CNN) — On October 1, uninsured Americans can begin purchasing health insurance in state- or federal-run exchanges, and over the next 10 weeks the Obama administration is engaging in an all-out education blitz meant to encourage broad participation.
One part of the education effort is a series of public conference calls in both Spanish and English organized by the White House Initiative for Education Excellence for Hispanics, the first of which was held on Tuesday. The calls are intended to introduce Hispanic consumers and community leaders to services offered under the Affordable Care Act and help demystify the insurance marketplace.
On Tuesday's call, Mayra Alvarez walked participants through a 24-slide PowerPoint presentation that offered background on the ACA and a primer on how to enroll in a health insurance plan beginning October 1. Alvarez, who serves as the director of Public Health Policy in the Office of Health Reform at the Department of Health and Human Services, told participants that outreach to Hispanic communities was particularly important to her department's efforts because one in three uninsured Americans are Hispanic
"One of the biggest challenges is reaching the millions of people that don't even know the health insurance marketplace is going to be available," Alvarez said on the call. "But frankly those people often aren't connected to their federal government. They're connected to their local YMCA or their health center or their church or their school, which is why we find it critical that we need to work with those community partners."
To accomplish that goal, Alvarez said that her colleagues at HHS are teaming up with officials from across the federal government to uncover where Americans get their information, and then "integrate material related to the marketplace." The effort employs 10 regional directors who are holding similar educational seminars on the local level.
"We are looking at any and all partners, whether it's media or different industries, entertainment to really figure out where do Americans get their information today and in particular where do families, where do young adults get their information today so that they can take advantage of this opportunity," Alvarez said.
This includes reaching out to members of Congress to ensure regional Congressional offices have materials about the insurance marketplaces and office staff are trained to answer constituents' questions. To engage Spanish-language media, Alvarez said she led a briefing for reporters from Telemundo and Univision before dialing into the conference call.
The leader of Tuesday's conference call, WHIEEH Deputy Director Marco Davis pointed out that educating the call's participants was one of the most powerful forms of outreach.
"The other key point of this effort is you, is folks on this call," Davis said. "That's part of the reason we're working with the Department of Health and Human Services to have these conference calls."
Davis announced plans for at least two more conference calls in coming weeks. Elsewhere in the administration, the Department of Education announced a similar call on Thursday aimed at educating faith-based groups on the ACA.