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President Obama Urges “Millenials” to Sign up for Coverage under Affordable Care Act

In recent days the Obama Administration has been intensifying outreach efforts to increase the number of young people who enroll for insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) before the March 31, 2014 deadline.

Paul DeMiglio

Paul DeMiglio

During a speech in Boston on Oct. 30, President Obama pushed back against criticism of ACA – which he signed into law in March 2010 – by seeking to draw parallels to the Massachusetts’ health care insurance law (“Romneycare”) that then-Governor Mitt Romney signed into law four years earlier.

“And if it was hard doing it just in one state, it’s harder to do it in all 50 states, especially when the governors of a bunch of states and half of the Congress aren’t trying to help. Yes, it’s hard, but it’s worth it. It is the right thing to do, and we are going to keep moving forward. We are going to keep working to improve the law, just like you did here in Massachusetts.”

Governor Romney, on the other hand, rejected the comparison, describing the “Obamacare” rollout as a “frustrating embarrassment” that has failed to learn “the lessons of Massachusetts’ health care.”

However, the two laws did face similar challenges at the start of their implementation, especially among young people. Romneycare saw an extremely low registration rate among younger demographics until the deadline. Likewise – although the White House set a goal of getting 2.7 million 18-34 year olds signed up through HealthCare.gov by the end of March – a recent study by the Commonwealth Fund revealed that only one in five people who visited the federal or state enrollment sites were 18-29.

A Dec. 4 article in The New York Times makes the case that many young people are likely to follow enrollment patterns that were similar to those in Massachusetts in 2006 – by pushing it off until the deadline hits.

“The experience of Massachusetts under Gov. Mitt Romney showed that most people, especially young people, acted only when they approached a deadline,” write Jonathan Weisman and Michael Shear, “and with the federal law, the deadline to have insurance or pay a penalty is months away.”

According to an Oct. 30 article in Business Insider, two former Massachusetts officials who played major roles in creating and rolling out the Massachusetts health law — Jonathan Gruber and Jon Kingsdale – say successful implementation of massive health care changes can come slowly at first:

“In Massachusetts, the officials said, only .03% of the share of Massachusetts residents who eventually enrolled for health insurance signed up in the first month the law went into effect. In the final month of enrollment, before the mandate to purchase insurance kicked in, more than 20% of the final tally signed up.”

Last week President Obama renewed strategies to increase enrollment rates by actively engaging young people, who are widely seen as critical to the financial stability of Obamacare. Addressing 160 participants from across the country at the Dec. 4 Youth Summit, the President urged “Millenials” – including DJs, entrepreneurs and organizational heads – to talk up Obamacare and get their peers to sign up on HealthCare.gov.

The Washington Post is reporting signs that enrollment among younger Americans is beginning to pick up, with a three-day total of about 56,000 from Dec. 1-3 – more than twice the number of online signups on HealthCare.gov during the entire month of October.

Now tell us what you think. Can Romneycare serve as an effective model for implementation of Obamacare, especially with respect to generating more signups among younger population demographics? What, if any, provisions from that law are applicable to rolling out the ACA? Have you tried to enroll on HealthCare.gov and were you successful?

Categories: Access to Care

Implementation of Health Care Law Expanding Coverage to More Young Adults

LJB head shot 03

Linda Barlow

For the first time in nearly a decade, the number of 19-25 year-olds gaining access to health insurance is on the rise, according to the Commonwealth Fund 2012 Biennial Health Insurance Survey. Researchers point to a provision in the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA or ACA), which allows young adults to stay on their parents’ health insurance until age 26, as a likely cause of this groundbreaking trend.

“The early provisions of the Affordable Care Act are helping young adults gain coverage and improving the affordability of health care during difficult economic times for American families,” said Sara Collins, Ph.D., a Commonwealth Fund vice president and lead author of the Biennial Survey’s report, Insuring the Future: Current Trends in Health Coverage and the Effects of Implementing the Affordable Care Act.

The improvements in young adult health coverage are significant, according to the Biennial Survey:

  • Nearly eight in 10 (79 percent) of Americans ages 19-25 reported that they were insured at the time of the survey in 2012, up from 69 percent in 2010, or a gain in health insurance coverage for an estimated 3.4 million young adults.
  • The share of young adults in this same age group who were uninsured for any time during the year prior to the survey fell from 48 percent in 2010 to 41 percent in 2012 – an estimated decline of 1.9 million, from 13.6 million uninsured young adults in 2010 to 11.7 million in 2012.

Of the estimated 3.1 million young adults who are now covered through the ACA, 60 percent are leveraging it for mental health, substance abuse, or pregnancy treatment, according to a study from the Employee Benefits Research Institute (EBRI). For one large, national employer profiled in the study, the newly-covered young adults used about $2 million in health care services in 2011 – about 0.2 percent of the employer’s total health spending.

Access is a major barrier to care for young adults, who were previously terminated from their parents’ plans when they turned 19. According to the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), young adults typically face difficulties obtaining their own coverage because they work in entry-level, low-wage or temporary jobs that are less likely to provide health insurance. Lack of insurance makes it harder for young adults to receive adequate medical care –  a problem that plagued one in five young adults before the ACA began to take effect.

“Young adult women have additional health needs and are particularly vulnerable when they are uninsured, as they are at an age when they require reproductive health services,” noted Karyn Schwartz and Tanya Schwartz, authors of KFF’s Issue Paper, How Will Health Reform Impact Young Adults? “Having health insurance and consistent access to the medical system may increase the likelihood that they receive timely pre-natal care if they become pregnant.”

Meanwhile, some skeptics are expressing concerns about key aspects and implications of the Act, from objecting to young single males being required to purchase a plan including maternity benefits and well-baby coverage – to others saying that full implementation of the ACA in 2014 will mean much higher premiums for young adults. Many have challenged these assertions, however, noting that the ACA’s age-based pricing requirements are largely in line with premiums individuals are paying now.

Although the news for young adults is mostly good, the survey also found that 84 million people – nearly half of all working age U.S. adults – went without health insurance in 2012, or faced out-of-pocket costs that were so high relative to their income that they were considered “underinsured.”

The survey did indicate that 87 percent of the 55 million uninsured Americans in 2012 are eligible for subsidized health insurance through the insurance marketplaces or expanded Medicaid under the ACA. Up to 85 percent of the 30 million uninsured adults also might be eligible for either Medicaid or subsidized health insurance plans with reduced out-of-pocket costs.

Click here to learn more about pricing options for young adults seeking health insurance coverage.

Now it’s your turn. Does rollout of the ACA mean more accessible and affordable health insurance coverage, or will it drive up costs, particularly for younger Americans? Get the conversation started.

Categories: Access to Care