WASHINGTON - The government launched a new webpage, training videos and infographics in August to help Americans better understand the health insurance exchanges that will launch Oct. 1.
"Everywhere I go, I meet people who are excited about the marketplaces and hungry for information," Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said last month.
About 7 million Americans are estimated to start buying health insurance as part of the new law, but a new survey shows they don't understand the basics of how health insurance works or is provided.
Her remarks came as a survey showed only 14 percent of adults polled by Carnegie Mellon University of Pittsburgh understood four questions about basic insurance terms such as "deductible" or "copay."
"I have a Ph.D. in economics, and even I have a hard time making heads of insurance," said George Loewenstein, a behavioral economist and lead author of the study.
The new features from HHS are available at www.healthcare.gov, where people may now create a user name and password for the exchange website. There's a new call center to answer questions for small businesses on the SHOP exchange.
"We are on target and ready to flip the switch on Oct. 1," Sebelius said. "We know there's still work to do."
Sebelius said the department has lost about $15.5 billion from its budget due to the mandatory cuts, called sequestration, that started March 1. But travel by department officials to promote the 2010 health care law remains a priority, she said. The department has made cuts in other areas, such as printing and conferences.
The announcement came as several groups are doing battle over insurance confusion. Some, such as Enroll America, seek to get as many people signed up on the new exchanges as possible. Others, such as Americans for Prosperity, are citing people's confusion about insurance as evidence the 2010 health care law is a bad idea that should be repealed.