Consumers can pick up information about health care reform at Walgreens stores in New Jersey under a joint campaign launched today with Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, part of a nationwide partnership between Blue Cross plans and Walgreens to educate consumers about the Affordable Care Act.
Starting Oct. 1, the ACA will dispense government subsidies to low- and moderate-income Americans to help them buy health insurance.
Larry Altman, vice president of Horizon's Office of Healthcare Reform, said the printed materials provided at Walgreens are educational, and not designed to steer consumers to Horizon products. Horizon is one of several health insurers planning to sell policies to New Jersey individuals, families and small businesses via a new online marketplace the federal government is now creating.
The insurers will enroll customers in policies that take effect Jan. 1, when the ACA requires most Americans to either get covered or pay a penalty.
"There's a lot of change coming and the more that the public understands it and knows what's available and what's coming the better," Altman said. "I think there is definitely a need for more understanding among the general public and we're really committed to trying to get the word out."
Walgreens shoppers will be guided to a new website, LearnAboutReform.com, sponsored by Walgreens and the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, with detailed information on the ACA and the federal subsidies available to those whose income qualifies them for assistance. The subsidies are on a sliding scale based on income, phasing out at four times the federal poverty level — about $46,000 a year for an individual and about $94,000 for a family of four.
In a statement, Brad Fluegel, Walgreens senior vice president and chief strategy officer, said, "There's a lot of confusion, a lot of questions, and it'll take a tremendous, collaborative effort to make sure people have the information they need to make informed choices."
Walgreens operates 8,077 drugstores in the U.S. including 185 in New Jersey.
Reporter Beth Fitzgerald is @BethFitzgerald8 on Twitter.