Enroll America is a 501(c)(3) founded in 2011—the year after the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, was signed into law—for the express purpose of enrolling people in Obamacare insurance plans and ensuring those people renewed their enrollments. Founded by alumni of President Barack Obama’s 2008 Presidential campaign and the Obama administration, Enroll America will closed in August 2017 having passed on most of its activities to other local and national organizations trained in their tactics.
Enroll America was founded by Ron Pollack of Families USA, a health care advocacy organization strongly supportive of President Obama’s domestic agenda, and was first housed in a wing of the Families USA Washington, D.C. office. Intended to act as “rocket fuel to push enrollment into a stable orbit, and then to step back,” Enroll America became the main organization signing people up for Obamacare in its first enrollment periods, employing 260 staff in 15 states and partnering with 6,700 organizations in every state and Washington, D.C. at its height.
Consciously using the strategies learned from President Obama’s 2008 campaign and staffed by veterans of President Obama’s campaigns and administration, Enroll America assisted people through the Obamacare enrollment process.
Enroll America began with a lean staff, employing 8 people in January 2013, but grew rapidly to 186 in October 2013, peaking at 262 staff in January 2014. But after an unexpected precipitous drop in funding in 2014, the organization had to cut about half of its employees.
During Obamacare’s first open enrollment period in the fall of 2013, Enroll America unveiled the Get Covered Calculator, allowing people to get an estimate of premium costs, and the Get Covered Connector, directing people to the nearest Obamacare “navigator” to help them through the enrollment process. As Enroll America disbands, the Get Covered Calculator has been discontinued, and the Get Covered Connector will be managed by Young Invincibles, a political advocacy network targeting young voters.
In 2015, Enroll America began the Get Covered Academy, a series of multi-day workshops teaching local organizations how to conduct similar outreach campaigns to continue Enroll America’s work after the organization formally closes. From 2015-2016, Enroll America coached 266 organizations in 22 states through the Get Covered Academy.
Enroll America received funding in part through government grants to “navigators” who help people to enroll in plans through Obamacare exchanges. Fueled by taxpayer money, the navigator program has been described as “a jobs program for unemployable Obama for America campaign volunteers and ACORN remnants.”
About half of Enroll America’s initial funding came from $13 million in donations from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a health care philanthropy foundation long-focused on government-controlled health care. This sizable donation came only after a fundraising call from then-Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Kathleen Sebelius, the administrator largely in charge of Obamacare. Sebelius’s intervention prompted congressional investigation by two House committees; Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyoming) and Representative Jack Kingston (R-Georgia) stated that it appeared Sebelius was “shaking down businesses and other potential donors.”
Members of the House and Senate also asked then-Comptroller General of the United States Gene L. Dodaro to investigate Ms. Sebelius for potentially violating spending limits in Obamacare imposed by law.
Nancy-Ann DeParle, Barack Obama’s former deputy chief of staff, also raised funds for Enroll America.
Though by law as a 501(c)(3) Enroll America is ostensibly nonpartisan, many of its activities and statements betray its progressive and Democratic leanings.
For example, Enroll America president Anne Filipic drummed up fear about Republican governance after the 2016 election, claiming that national leaders might “take away life-saving coverage from millions of people” and that the stakes in the health care reform debate are “literally life and death.” Enroll America claimed that Republicans wanted to repeal Obamacare to return “Americans to the days when those with pre-existing conditions could be denied coverage, when there was no financial assistance to make sure coverage was affordable,” despite the fact that every Republican proposal protected those with pre-existing conditions and offered support for people to buy insurance.
Enroll America even labeled itself as progressive, claiming that its message was one that “other national progressive groups could rally around.”
Enroll America has also joined together with left-wing groups like the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and Planned Parenthood on national outreach efforts, and its advisory council was filled with left-wing organizations including the NAACP, National Council of La Raza (now UnidosUS), National Urban League, Planned Parenthood, and SEIU.
Enroll America has also allegedly blurred its relation to electoral politics. When Enroll America’s Brian Pendleton was introduced at a speaking engagement, the organization was called “the official group for the DNC [Democratic National Committee].” Enroll America even allegedly shared data with the liberal political group Battleground Texas.
Ron Pollack, the founder of Enroll America, worked on Bill Clinton’s Presidential Advisory Commission on Consumer Protection and Quality in the Health Care Industry.
Anne Filipic is the President of Enroll America. She was a senior staffer with the Obama for America campaign, acting as the field director for Obama’s 2008 Iowa Caucus victory. She was later the deputy executive director of the Democratic National Committee, served in the Obama White House, and was an aide to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
Chris Wyant, formerly Enroll America’s managing director, was an Ohio field operative for President Obama in the 2012 election and later became the executive director for the liberal pro-trade group Progressive Coalition for American Jobs.
Matthew Saniie was Enroll America’s national analytics director and later left to do strategic engagement at a data analytics firm formed by Obama campaign staffers called BlueLabs.