The Corner

HHS to Host Brown-Bag Lunches to Explain Obamacare to Employees

With a crucial Obamacare deadline a little over a month away, it appears that even employees at the department charged with implementing the law are still confused about its basic components. So Health and Human Services secretary Kathleen Sebelius is making efforts to inform her employees about the basic elements of the Affordable Care Act over brown-bag lunches. There, staffers will explain the law, including how the health-insurance marketplaces function. 

“I recognize the hard work that many of you have put into implementing the law for the last several years, but I realize that many of you don’t work on the law’s implementation directly every day, or at all,” Sebelius said in an email to HHS employees on Monday.  

Sebelius is also encouraging HHS staffers to sign up for informational webinars about the Affordable Care Act. 

In the same email, she also asked HHS employees to help sell Obamacare to family and friends by adding on a widget promoting the law to their email signature.

The secretary’s full e-mail follows below: 

Sent: Monday, August 12, 2013

Subject: A Message from the Secretary

Dear Colleagues:

As employees at HHS, it’s inevitable that some, if not all of you, will be asked about the Affordable Care Act –what some may know as Obamacare, health reform, or the health care law of 2010. I recognize the hard work that many of you have put into implementing the law for the last several years, but I realize that many of you don’t work on the law’s implementation directly every day, or at all.

So, I want to make sure that you have the information to help your friends and family better understand the law and more importantly, how they can benefit from it.

First and foremost, the Affordable Care Act is the law of the land and has the potential to help so many Americans. It was signed by President Obama in 2010 and upheld by the Supreme Court in June 2012. Because of the law, the 85 percent of Americans who have insurance have stronger coverage than ever before. And for the 15 percent of Americans, including families and small businesses, who don’t have insurance, or who aren’t happy with their current coverage, a new day is just around the corner.

For Those of Us Who Already Have Health Insurance

Your own health insurance, as federal employees, is getting stronger. In fact, most Americans with private health insurance (including many of the contractors we work with) are already seeing the law’s benefits.

You may already be getting many preventive services, like cancer screenings, without having to pay a co-pay or deductible. If you have a child who’s under 26, you may be able to keep him or her on your FEHBP plan. If you know people on Medicare, their coverage is getting stronger, too. Among other things, they, too, can get many preventive services without having to pay a co-pay or deductible.

The bottom line is this: if you or your loved ones already have health insurance you’re happy with, your coverage is getting stronger, and you won’t have to do anything when enrollment in the new Health Insurance Marketplace opens on October 1, 2013.

For Those Who Need Insurance, Own A Small Business or Want More Insurance Options

If you know someone who is uninsured or underinsured, know someone who works for or owns a small business, or know someone who simply wants to know what other health insurance options are out there, they’ll have new coverage options to explore starting on October 1, 2013.

Here are the basics:

• Before the law, many people (e.g. those who wanted to retire early or switch jobs or start their own business) and small businesses didn’t have the kind of bargaining power that large businesses have to get quality, affordable health coverage.

• The Health Insurance Marketplace will help them get coverage that fits their needs and budget.

• Every state will have its own marketplace, easily accessible online or by phone.

• People will be able to see health coverage options in one place–and if they fill out one simple, user-friendly application they can find out if they’re eligible for a break on the cost of coverage.

• After they fill out the application they’ll also find out if they qualify for free or low-cost coverage through Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

• 90% of people who are currently uninsured will qualify for discounted or free health insurance.

• Open enrollment–the period during which people can enroll in coverage–is open for six months and starts October 1, 2013 and ends March 31, 2014.

• People who enroll by December 15 can start getting insurance benefits as soon as January 1, 2014.

• You can help educate the public.

What Can You Do Now?

If others, including friends, neighbors, and family, should have questions, point them to or the Spanish version,, now and in the coming weeks and months. The first step toward enrolling in coverage in a Marketplace is to go online and create an account to get ready for open enrollment in October.

You can also help spread the word by adding a widget to your email signature.

Want to Learn More?

If you or your staff are interested in learning more, we have resources available for you right here at the Department. All HHS employees are welcome to visit to sign up for a Health Insurance Marketplace educational webinar.

Staff here at HHS are also available to give Affordable Care Act and Marketplace 101 presentations. They’ve been meeting with offices around the Department through brown bag lunches and more formal discussions and are hopeful they can reach every employee! Please don’t hesitate to reach out to them here.

Thank you for the work you do each and every day to provide essential human services and protect the health of all Americans–especially those who are most vulnerable. We have a huge opportunity to help even more Americans–and you can help the effort.


Kathleen Sebelius


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