- Pool/Getty Images
Obamacare needs millennials, so the White House is going after them.
The White House, the Department of Health and Human Services, the secretary of education, and private groups convened in Washington on Tuesday for the Affordable Care Act Millennial Outreach and Engagement Summit.
The summit was the launch of a campaign to reach out to young people and get them to sign up for plans through the exchanges set up by the Affordable Care Act, the healthcare law better known as Obamacare.
The push is important because the people signing up through the exchanges over the past few years have skewed older and have led to significant losses for some insurersoffering plans through Obamacare.
Generally, people who are young and healthy pay into the system while older, sicker people are net losses for insurers, so having an older customer base can be problematic for the companies.
Yet in the first quarter of this year, the percentage of adults ages 25 to 34 lacking insurance, 15.9%, was double what it was for people ages 45 to 64 (8.1%), according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In turn, health-insurance companies have started to cut bait on the losses and remove their plans from some states. Major insurers including Aetna, UnitedHealthcare, and Cigna have all reduced their exchange business.
To reach millennials in the crucial open-enrollment period, it appears the administration is ready to dramatically expand its outreach channels.
- Thomson Reuters
Sylvia Burwell, the secretary of Health and Human Services, said that in addition to typical emails and phone calls to young people without coverage, the administration was even partnering with the social live-stream platform Twitch to reach young people where they get their entertainment. Twitch is used primarily to stream people playing video games.
Burwell also said that the Health and Human Services Department would take part in other “paid partnerships with online platforms that are on the cutting edge, reaching young people when they’re most likely to be plugged into media and entertainment,” and that the HHS had updated its mobile site, since mobile has become an increasingly important mode of consumption for millennials.
Another element that should prod more millennials to sign up is the full tax penalty for not having coverage taking effect this year. Additionally, proposed plans from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will make it harder for millennials to sign up outside the open-enrollment period. These policy penalties will make it more urgent for young people to get covered.
Thus, with the ACA open-enrollment period starting in a little over a month, on November 1, the Obama administration is in do-or-die mode to get the word out on signing up for healthcare. With the slew of insurers pulling out of the ACA marketplaces and a loud chorus declaring Obamacare to be in a “death spiral,” the outreach takes on a sense of urgency in the final year of the Obama presidency.
If the administration can sign up more millennials and start to show that the exchanges can work, it could inspire more insurers to get back into the exchanges. If not, it could be another blow to one of Obama’s signature legislative achievements.