Joined by John Standley, Rite Aid’s chief executive officer, Sebelius spoke about the Obamacare’s early enrollment period that begins on Oct. 1 (and runs through March 31) and gives those without health insurance or those unsatisfied with their current coverage an opportunity to be the first to sign up. She noted that New Jersey and the greater Metropolitan area has some of the highest numbers of uninsured citizens in the country.
“There are 900,000 people without healthcare in New Jersey, 2 million in New York, and 245,000 in Connecticut,” she said.
Sebelius said that promoting the Act at local pharmacies like Rite Aid is a crucial step towards getting the word out about Obamacare.
“What we know is that Americans trust their local pharmacists,” she said. “This was never going to be something that we were going to be able to get done from Washington. It’s going to be a grassroots effort.”
Standley explained that throughout October and through the end of the enrollment period, independent insurance agents will be stationed at Rite Aid in Hoboken and throughout the country to explain the options offered at Obamacare’s “Healthcare Marketplace” to patients.
“We know that our customers look to us for not only the best healthcare but also the best healthcare information,” he said. “We want our customers to be able to understand their options and make the best choices for them.”
Appointments with the insurance agents are not necessary, and the consultations should only take a few minutes said Standley. The goal is that, at the end of the consultation, patients might have a better idea of which public option fits their lifestyle best.”
Menendez, who supported Obamacare when it was in its legislative phase as a member of the Senate Finance Committee, discussed the Act’s benefits to seniors, recent college graduates and those with autism, who will be eligible to have behavioral therapy covered.
“Imagine going to sleep with no healthcare and lying awake worrying about whether you’ll be able to afford your medications, or that you’ll get a disease that you’ll have to spend everything you’ve earned on fighting,” he said. “Those are the days of the past. The Healthcare Marketplace is the future.”
Obamacare’s individual mandate, which requires that every uninsured American sign up for a public option or buy health insurance by 2016 or pay a penalty on their tax bill, was a topic of conversation, with Sebelius noting that one of the key aspects of the law is to promote “personal responsibility.”
In response, Steve Lonegan, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, held a press conference across the street blasting Obamacare, especially the individual mandate.
“At least the individual mandate should be delayed, or at best, repealed,” he said. “We shouldn’t be forcing consumers to buy a product they might not want.”
Standley was asked by a reporter, who noted Lonegan’s press conference, whether he was concerned about Rite Aid becoming a political football after agreeing to bring the insurance agents into his stores to discuss the various public options.
“Our commitment is to our patients,” he said. “We’re not a political organization. The fact is that the Affordable Care Act is the law and we want to help our customers be able to navigate it.” – Dean DeChiaro