If there was any question about why Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was in Philadelphia on Thursday, the literature in the back of the room made it clear before she uttered a word.
There were oversize postcards ("Need affordable health insurance?"), glossy brochures ("About the Health Insurance Marketplace"), 81/2-by-11-inch color photocopies ("Key Dates for the Health Insurance Marketplace"), and multiple fact sheets detailing the Top Five Things You Need to Know About the Affordable Care Act, headlined for "Seniors" and "Young Adults" and "Families With Children" and "People With Disabilities and Serious Health Conditions."
Yet another fact sheet was aimed at "Latinos." All were in English and Spanish.
"Latinos have the highest rate of uninsured in the country," Sebelius told the 200 or so health-care workers and advocates who packed a room at Congreso de Latinos Unidos in North Philadelphia to learn a little more about Obamacare. In Philadelphia, she said, Latinos make up 17 percent of the "eligible uninsured," which excludes undocumented immigrants. The city's population is 12 percent Latino.
As the Oct. 1 date approaches for beginning enrollment in insurance marketplaces mandated by the Affordable Care Act, advocates for health care are gearing up to spread the word. Congreso, by far the largest social-services organization in Philadelphia's Latino community, will be actively involved.
The health law is so complex that workers will take classes to learn enough to explain the essentials to people who may be eligible for subsidies to make health insurance affordable but who now, by and large, are just confused.
Some information is online, although it can be hard to find in states like Pennsylvania, where the governor opposed Obamacare. Mayors across the country have tried to fill a bit of the gap, said Mayor Nutter, who introduced Sebelius and urged people to go to www.phila.gov/health, where information - conveyed mainly through links to the federal site - is easier to find than at the state Insurance Department website.
Officials are still trying to cut through the confusion enough so that people at least ask about health insurance.
"All of you can be outreach helpers," Sebelius said. "You can talk to your neighbors . . . you can talk to your church groups . . . you can put a link on your Facebook page reminding people," she said, that applications for insurance will be accepted starting Oct. 1.