Good news for Obamacare has been rarer than an igloo in the Sahara desert over the last few months. However, Walgreen Company (NYSE:WAG) and the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, or BCBSA, announced a partnership today that delivered at least a little bit of good news for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, particularly for the health insurance exchanges authorized by the legislation.
Cries for help
To say that there has been confusion about Obamacare in the minds of the public would be a big understatement. More than 40% of Americans surveyed in April by the Kaiser Family Foundation didn’t even know that it was still a law. Considerable consternation exists about the Obamacare exchanges.
In one sense, the legislation itself anticipated the need to help people understand the complexities of Obamacare. The bill included the use of “navigators” to help educate the public about new health insurance options. In April, $54 million was allocated to begin hiring these navigators. Another $150 million will be on the way later to help local health clinics provide guidance to uninsured individuals seeking to use the exchanges.
Sensing that even more assistance was needed, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius embarked upon a controversial effort to line up companies and nonprofit organizations to help promote Obamacare exchanges. Sebelius personally contacted two organizations, H & R Block Inc (NYSE:HRB) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, to ask for money to support the cause.
While the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has kicked in several million dollars in promoting Obamacare over the past few years, as of mid-May H & R Block Inc (NYSE:HRB) said that it had “not made any decision to join any specific advocacy or other health-care organization.” The company does see opportunities with advising its clients on how to comply with the tax provisions in the law.
The White House also recently attempted to gain help from the National Football League. The NFL opted, though, to take a pass on promoting the exchanges. According to NFL spokesman Greg Aiello, the league has “no plans to engage” in efforts to help publicize Obamacare.
Walgreen and the Blues to the rescue
All of this makes the Wednesday announcement by Walgreen Company (NYSE:WAG) and the BCBSA especially welcome by the administration. The two organizations joined forces to launch a national campaign with the goal to help people understand the new health care reform law.
The centerpiece of their effort is a website, LearnAboutReform.com, which currently redirects to a page on the Walgreen Company (NYSE:WAG) website. This site provides explanations for what Obamacare means for consumers and how the new exchanges will work. It also answers questions about federal financial assistance and penalties for not purchasing insurance.
Walgreen Company (NYSE:WAG) will offer informational brochures about the health reform legislation at most of its 8,000 drugstores across the U.S. Details about the costs of these efforts or any other possible promotional activities by the organizations weren’t provided.
What’s in it for them?
Don’t expect Walgreen Company (NYSE:WAG) or any of the members of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, which includes 14 plans owned by WellPoint, Inc. (NYSE:WLP), to talk about any benefit that they might obtain from promoting education about Obamacare. That doesn’t necessarily mean that they won’t receive any benefits, though.