Obamacare Exchanges Get Help From Walgreen and the Blues

Good news for Obamacare has been rarer than an igloo in the Sahara desert over the last few months. However, Walgreen (NYSE: WAG  ) and the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, or BCBSA, announced a partnership today that delivered at least a little bit of good news for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, particularly for the health insurance exchanges authorized by the legislation.

Cries for help
To say that there has been confusion about Obamacare in the minds of the public would be a big understatement. More than 40% of Americans surveyed in April by the Kaiser Family Foundation didn't even know that it was still a law. Considerable consternation exists about the Obamacare exchanges.

In one sense, the legislation itself anticipated the need to help people understand the complexities of Obamacare. The bill included the use of "navigators" to help educate the public about new health insurance options. In April, $54 million was allocated to begin hiring these navigators. Another $150 million will be on the way later to help local health clinics provide guidance to uninsured individuals seeking to use the exchanges.

Sensing that even more assistance was needed, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius embarked upon a controversial effort to line up companies and nonprofit organizations to help promote Obamacare exchanges. Sebelius personally contacted two organizations, H&R Block (NYSE: HRB  ) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, to ask for money to support the cause.

While the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has kicked in several million dollars in promoting Obamacare over the past few years, as of mid-May H&R Block said that it had "not made any decision to join any specific advocacy or other health-care organization." The company does see opportunities with advising its clients on how to comply with the tax provisions in the law.

The White House also recently attempted to gain help from the National Football League. The NFL opted, though, to take a pass on promoting the exchanges. According to NFL spokesman Greg Aiello, the league has "no plans to engage" in efforts to help publicize Obamacare.

Walgreen and the Blues to the rescue
All of this makes the Wednesday announcement by Walgreen and the BCBSA especially welcome by the administration. The two organizations joined forces to launch a national campaign with the goal to help people understand the new health care reform law.

The centerpiece of their effort is a website, LearnAboutReform.com, which currently redirects to a page on the Walgreen website. This site provides explanations for what Obamacare means for consumers and how the new exchanges will work. It also answers questions about federal financial assistance and penalties for not purchasing insurance.

Walgreen will offer informational brochures about the health reform legislation at most of its 8,000 drugstores across the U.S. Details about the costs of these efforts or any other possible promotional activities by the organizations weren't provided.

What's in it for them?
Don't expect Walgreen or any of the members of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, which includes 14 plans owned by WellPoint (NYSE: WLP  ) , to talk about any benefit that they might obtain from promoting education about Obamacare. That doesn't necessarily mean that they won't receive any benefits, though.

As for Walgreen, the company could gain more business as consumers join the health exchanges. Uninsured individuals are less likely to buy prescription drugs. Also, confused seekers of new health insurance might be more likely to visit Walgreen stores for filling prescription drugs than other drugstores if they perceive those stores as more helpful in navigating the Obamacare waters.

For the Blues plans that participate in Obamacare exchanges, public perception that they're being helpful could conceivably boost the numbers of people selecting their insurance offerings. The insurers also have a vested interest in promoting the exchanges for healthier individuals, whose enrollment helps offset higher costs associated with less healthy members.

Pushing Obamacare exchanges is a double-edged sword, though. WellPoint expects reduced profit margins as small employers send employees to the insurance exchanges. Susquehanna Financial Group financial analyst Chris Rigg estimates that the company could give up profits of around $400 million over a four-year period. With the delay of the Obamacare employer mandate, the start of that period will push back by a year.

What's next
The verdict is still out as to whether the exchanges will actually be operational by the scheduled date of Oct. 1. The Government Accountability Office, or GAO, says that the likelihood of a successful launch by the deadline "cannot be determined." With less than 90 days remaining, good news for Obamacare will need to be more commonplace than those Sahara igloos.

Walgreen and the Blues plans might help consumers understand some of the issues surrounding Obamacare, but they won't focus on the full range of financial impacts of the legislation. For that critical information, The Motley Fool has you covered.  The Fool's new free report, "Everything You Need to Know About Obamacare," lets you know how your health insurance, your taxes, and your portfolio could be affected. Click here to read more. 


Read/Post Comments (23) | Recommend This Article (5)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On July 10, 2013, at 5:12 PM, slanciano wrote:

    Unless you're uninsurable and your income is low, Obozocare isn't going to do anything for you but take more money out of your pocket.

  • Report this Comment On July 10, 2013, at 5:47 PM, drankmyselfsober wrote:

    Guess I won't be buying anything at Walgreens now.....Let the boycott begin.

  • Report this Comment On July 10, 2013, at 5:54 PM, Columny wrote:

    Slanciano writes, "Unless you're uninsurable and your income is low, Obozocare isn't going to do anything for you but take more money out of your pocket."

    Isn't that the point? Hospitals and ambulances can't turn people away. We taxpayers pay over $50,000,000,000 for unpaid ER visits per year. Low income and indigents don't make up that cost.

    What should we do let the bodies stack up like cord wood in front of hospitals?

    I bet Slanciano didn't beef when Dumbya put American taxpayers on the hook for a 5 Trillion dollar needless war that put Jihadists on steroids and gave them a nice little proving ground called Iraq.

  • Report this Comment On July 10, 2013, at 6:03 PM, momuv7 wrote:

    That explains why my Blue Cross insurance went up $100 a month. Had to drop it. Now we get to be one of the uninsured for the first time in our lives. We could barely do the $300 a month, no way we can do $400 a month for nothing.

  • Report this Comment On July 10, 2013, at 6:14 PM, Icthelite wrote:

    As October of 2013 draws nearer folks are going to finally see who it was that pushed this PPACA program through Congress with the help of their lobbying forces. Many of the members of Congress sold out their constituents and voted for it when folks back home were telling them they didn’t want it. They didn’t like it then and they like it even less now that the IRS is going to be ‘enforcing’ the program and collecting the fines [aka taxes] and mandatory premiums [aka taxes]. Those that weren’t purged from the Senate and the House in 2010 for selling them out will hopefully be given their walking papers in 2014. The voters will have eleven months to see just what this program is going to do ’to’ them before they hit the poles in November.

  • Report this Comment On July 10, 2013, at 6:16 PM, echodan wrote:

    Sad that the article failed to mention that Sebelius most likely broke the law in soliciting funds from organizations affected by Obamacare. She should be charged and tried, just like any other criminal.

  • Report this Comment On July 10, 2013, at 6:18 PM, gwsjr425 wrote:

    Why does Ocare need "help"?

  • Report this Comment On July 10, 2013, at 6:57 PM, bgregory112661 wrote:

    My Insurance Only Renewed My Family Until Dec. They Say They Are Waiting To See What Obummer Care Will Do.We're Up The Creek Without A Paddle With This President.

  • Report this Comment On July 10, 2013, at 7:12 PM, Pr0zac2000 wrote:

    The one and only time I used Walgreen's is was I needed a prescription after the Doctor's called it in.. it took them 8 days to tell me it was on back order.

  • Report this Comment On July 10, 2013, at 7:46 PM, truzak wrote:

    So out of the blue and the goodness of its heart, Walgreen's decides to campaign for Obamacare?

    Hmm. I wonder what Walgreen's was threatened with - an IRS audit, a mob action by union members on the front lawns of its board of directors, a secret drone hit on all its executives?

    Mr. "If they bring a knife, we bring a gun" Obama certainly ain't shy about playing Chicago-politics hardball. And now that he is the big sheriff in town, it's so much easier.

  • Report this Comment On July 10, 2013, at 9:13 PM, Icthelite wrote:

    As October of 2013 draws nearer folks are going to finally see who it was that pushed this PPACA program through Congress with the help of their lobbying forces. Many of the members of Congress sold out their constituents and voted for it when folks back home were telling them they didn’t want it. They didn’t like it then and they like it even less now that the IRS is going to be ‘enforcing’ the program and collecting the fines [aka taxes] and mandatory premiums [aka taxes]. Those that weren’t purged from the Senate and the House in 2010 for selling them out will hopefully be given their walking papers in 2014. The voters will have eleven months to see just what this program is going to do ’to’ them before they hit the poles in November.

  • Report this Comment On July 10, 2013, at 9:18 PM, Icthelite wrote:

    Sorry for the double post. If you want to find out more about how giddy the insurance companies are about the PPACA google up United Health Care's comment today about how they figure this is going to expand their client base and how they think health care is going to change.

  • Report this Comment On July 10, 2013, at 9:43 PM, frankv826 wrote:

    The same reason everyone has to buy car insurance is the same reason everyone has to buy health insurance . If you don't have car insurance and you hit my $40k car who is going to pay for it ? Everyone that has car insurance and all of there rates will go up . And if you go to the ER and walk out with a $40k hospital bill and you don't have insurance who going to pay for it ? Everyone who has health insurance and all of there rates will go up . The reason our health insurance is so high is because our health insurance is on the stock market . And the rich are going to make billions on the health care stock !

  • Report this Comment On July 10, 2013, at 10:40 PM, Bugs1970 wrote:

    "What should we do let the bodies stack up like cord wood in front of the hospitals?" quote Columny

    That is probably THE funniest one liner that I have heard since the beginning of Obamacare!

  • Report this Comment On July 10, 2013, at 10:45 PM, GrimR wrote:

    " We taxpayers pay over $50,000,000,000 for unpaid ER visits per year. Low income and indigents don't make up that cost."

    You speak as if Obamacare does a single thing to change this. Taxpayers will still be covering that bill, just through different means. The problem isnt the payment method, the problem is the cost. We've all seen the news on that, costs are up. There is nothing good about this legislation, and everything bad. You'll find out soon enough how bad, and when you complain I'm not going to listen.

  • Report this Comment On July 10, 2013, at 11:14 PM, emeraldhopes wrote:

    Well our out of pocket expenses for our health insurance premiums through BCBS has tripled in the last year and they have taken away benefits from our plan....CROOKS!

  • Report this Comment On July 10, 2013, at 11:18 PM, emeraldhopes wrote:

    Our premuims are $2150.00 per month now for health insurance, this is what we pay out of pocket...can hardly afford to work anymore. Obamacare isn't going to help us any I am sure. Sad when people on welfare medical gets the options to have elective gastric bypass and tax payers pay for it, the people paying their premiums can't even get that surgery...what a scam.

  • Report this Comment On July 10, 2013, at 11:36 PM, bc3b wrote:

    I guess we'll be moving our prescriptions to CVS.

  • Report this Comment On July 10, 2013, at 11:57 PM, clloyd53 wrote:

    Corporations only get involved in promoting Obamacare. Because these corporations understand that Obamacare will cost the people more money. And they want a larger piece of the pie. The wealthy continue to gain wealth. And the number of people living near, at and below the poverty level continues to grow. Under the Obama administration. And a Congress built on greed.

  • Report this Comment On July 11, 2013, at 12:28 AM, angelady1127 wrote:

    I guess I'm done in Walgreens. Damn shame too, been with them for 20 years.

  • Report this Comment On July 11, 2013, at 12:34 AM, thewesselskids wrote:

    well, guess I will join the others and stop shopping at Walgreen's....No Blue Cross for me either. Tell people to not shop there.......

  • Report this Comment On July 11, 2013, at 12:59 AM, Rusty63 wrote:

    Yes, there are benefits when dealing with Obama's agendas---General Electric comes to mind.

  • Report this Comment On July 11, 2013, at 1:20 AM, HClarity wrote:

    Health reform is happening, whether people like it or not. Educating consumers on what this means is not an outright show of support for any political platform. Someone has to step up and help The People understand what all this means. These educational efforts should be applauded, at least they're trying to help - consumers have to act regardless.

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