Obama administration offers strategies to promote Obamacare in schools

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The Obama administration has posted materials online aimed at promoting the new health-care law in schools.

The materials, offered at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ (CMS) Health Insurance Marketplace website include a resource card directing students to online materials about the Health Insurance Marketplace, as well as “What it means” fact sheets about the Affordable Care Act for school communities, students and parents and teachers, and a document on ways to promote the new health-care options in schools.

Each of the fact sheets, which appear under the “Affordable Care Act series from the Department of Education” category, offer basic information about the new health-care law.

“The US Department of Education is working to make all schools healthier and safe,” the fact sheets explain. “To help states, districts, and schools ensure healthy schools and students, the Department encourages school communities to make use of exciting new provisions of the Affordable Care Act. … To get all of America’s schools covered, the Health Insurance Marketplace begins with YOU.”

The fact sheets in the series were also recently included in the latest Education Department’s bi-weekly newsletter “ED Review.”

In addition to the student, school community, and parent and teacher fact sheets, the Marketplace website also offers a how to guide on promoting the Affordable Care Act in schools, titled “Ten Ways Schools Can Promote New Health Insurance Opportunities” and explaining that “schools can play a vital role in making sure people know how to get coverage.”

The ways the government says schools can “contribute to the outreach effort” include spreading the message about the marketplace through special events, school materials and coaches.

The document also advises schools to help students and their families apply for coverage and make the school’s computer lab available to parents “to sign up for coverage, as well as sharing best practices with statewide training sessions.”

In a June interview with POLITICO, Education Secretary Arne Duncan explained that when it comes to the Affordable Care Act the department would be “[d]oing everything we can to work with schools. I’ve been out doing graduation speeches and talking about young people staying on their parents’ insurance until the age of 26, there are always lots of applause lines around that. So whatever schools can do to be good partners.”

“We actually have a team here that’s sort of helping, obviously more on the margins, but helping on ACA implementation,” he added. “We want to be a good partner and work with schools and universities.”

In response to Duncan’s comments, a group of GOP lawmakers led by South Dakota Sen. John Thune, chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, and Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander, the ranking member of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee wrote a letter to Duncan in mid-July demanding to know what the Education Department’s involvement in the promotion and implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

The Department of Education missed the July 30 deadline to respond and has yet to offer the senators an answer to their inquiry.

More recently, Alexander led a group of 39 GOP senators in calling on the White House to explain what at least 21 federal agencies are doing to help implement the Affordable Care Act.

“We write to ask for information about the activities being undertaken by twenty or more federal agencies with no responsibilities under the President’s health care law in the implementation and promotion of that law, specifically about what the agencies are doing, what funds the agencies are spending, and what authorities the agencies are using,” the lawmakers wrote with an Aug. 14 deadline to respond.

The White House has yet to provide answers to the senators.

While lawmakers have voiced concerns that the Department of Education will be promoting the Affordable Care Act, the department is moving forward with information dissemination.

“The Department of Education is supporting an administration-wide strategy to provide helpful and accurate information about the implications of the Affordable Care Act for all Americans,” a Department of Education spokesman wrote in an email to The Daily Caller. “We are working with state and local partners to provide information to some of the country’s 50 million uninsured, including secondary and post-secondary students, ESL students and low income families.”

The spokesman explained that the materials aimed at schools, students, and parents on the marketplace resources website are intended for voluntary use and have been available since March.

“The Department is providing this information, developed by HHS, for education leaders and advocates to use at their discretion,” the spokesman said. “Among the most important provisions for families and students is access to preventative care that will result in students spending more time in the classroom learning, and less time outside of class recovering from preventable illnesses.”

The spokesman added that the information contained under the heading “Affordable Care Act series from the Department of Education” was created by HHS as well.

He noted, however, that “[t]he Department is not providing technical assistance on implementation. This effort will continue to be led by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.”

A CMS spokesperson explained that the agency is working to make sure that the message reaches as many people as possible, noting that the government has currently and historically used schools to raise awareness about the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

“We are committed to ensuring that as many Americans as possible are aware of their options for accessing affordable health insurance. We regularly post materials for the public and stakeholders to use,” the spokesperson wrote in an email to TheDC.

“One of our long-standing missions at HHS has been to ensure that eligible children are enrolled in the CHIP program, and one way of reaching that population is through schools,” the spokesperson added.

In line with that contention, one of the links to additional materials offered at CMS’ marketplace resources website are aimed at promoting CHIP — including back-to-school posters and pamphlets for schools, parents, and coaches — at the government site,

The Department of Education’s assistance in health matters is not necessarily new. In the past the agency has helped to share information about the 2010 Influenza A outbreak, the 2008 possible flu epidemic and CHIP.

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