ObamaCare

By KYLE CHENEY and PAIGE WINFIELD CUNNINGHAM
11/25/13 6:59 PM EST Updated: 11/26/13 11:32 AM EST

Insurance companies are ready to unleash an expensive PR blitz to get 7 million new customers once HealthCare.gov is fixed.

But don’t expect them to sell “Obamacare.”

Big insurers and the stock analysts that track them say that once the White House is sure its enrollment website is working, the companies will barrage the airwaves with messages encouraging people to join new health insurance exchanges, either by signing up directly with insurers or by giving the website another shot.

The strategy makes sense: “Obamacare” polls terribly with Americans, but the idea of affordable insurance is a hit. And for the insurance industry, the new health care law isn’t about politics — it’s business.

Already Kaiser Permanente has sent a letter to potential customers in the Washington area, touting the availability of federal subsidies and mentioning specific benefits and coverage options for “hassle-free coverage that won’t let you down.”

But the letter makes no mention of Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act or President Barack Obama. “If you need help paying for health care, you may qualify for federal financial assistance when you enroll in a plan offered in the marketplace,” it says, giving a toll-free number.

WellPoint, the largest insurer within the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, has earmarked $150 million for “exchange-related activities” that include marketing to customers, a company spokeswoman said. The timetable for spending will depend on “the pace of overall exchange readiness — and tenor of consumer sentiment,” she said.

The health care website is supposed to be working “smoothly” for most people by this weekend, White House officials say.

The insurance companies could be critical in getting people to log on.

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