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Walgreens, Blue Cross Blue Shield Join Obamacare Education Campaign

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WALGREENS OBAMACARE
Customers at Walgreens, like this location in Hollywood, Calif., will be able to get information about President Barack Obama's health care reform law via a partnership between the pharmacy chain and the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. | Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Walgreens and the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association are joining forces to promote enrollment in health coverage under President Barack Obama's health care reform law, the pharmacy company and insurance alliance announced Wednesday.

Walgreens will provide brochures to customers at its more than 8,000 Walgreens and Duane Reade stores across the U.S. and has debuted a consumer information website, LearnAboutReform.com, with the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, an affiliation of 38 health insurance companies.

Health insurers and other health care companies have a huge stake in the success of the health care reform law, which promises to provide them with millions of new paying customers, many of whom will gain access to health insurance and subsidies from the federal government.

Although health insurance companies opposed Obamacare and has warned the law's regulations will drive up premiums for younger and healthier people, the partnership between the Blue Cross and Walgreens illustrates the health care industry's need to assist the Obama administration and its allies in maximizing health insurance enrollment for 2014, and can be seen as a harbinger of additional private-sector outreach and marketing campaigns to come.

“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,” said Brad Fluegel, Walgreens' chief strategy officer, in a press release.

The Congressional Budget Office projects that 7 million people who don't get health benefits at work will use the law's health insurance exchange marketplaces to shop for coverage next year, and an additional 8 million will enroll in Medicaid. By 2023, 27 million fewer people will be uninsured because of the law, according to the CBO.

Open enrollment for health insurance purchased via the exchanges and for expanded Medicaid benefits in states that broaden the program begins Oct. 1 and runs for six months. Public awareness of the law and support for its aims remains low as the federal government, some states and organizations such as Enroll America ramp up efforts to educate consumers about how to use the health insurance exchanges and how to access financial assistance for subsidized private health insurance or Medicaid.

Walgreens and Blue Cross companies have a wide reach in the American health care system. Blue Cross plans already provide health insurance coverage to about 100 million people, and Walgreens serves about 120 million consumers a year, Bloomberg News reports.

The Obama administration continues to build toward the Oct. 1 deadline for opening the health insurance exchanges to people who don't get coverage at work and to small businesses. Delays in implementing other parts of the health care law, including a requirement that large companies offer health benefits to workers or face financial penalties, have raised questions about the federal government's readiness. The administration maintains the health insurance exchanges will be open on time.

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