Partner Spotlight: Why Enrolling Young People Matters

By Guest Blogger

The following blog was written by Rory O’Sullivan, Policy Director for Young Invincibles. Young Invincibles is a member of Enroll America’s Advisory Council.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) promises an historic expansion of health insurance coverage in the United States. Many of the newly covered will be young Americans. Roughly 28 percent of 18 to 34 year olds lacked health insurance in 2010 – the highest rate among any age group. Already millions of young adults are taking advantage of the new ability to join their parent’s plan, but much more work remains. When the ACA takes full effect in 2014, millions of young adults will gain eligibility for Medicaid and for tax credits to reduce the cost of insurance. Ensuring the ACA delivers on its promise requires enrolling young Americans in these new options.  

The early implementation phase has already been a huge success. The provision allowing young adults to stay on their parent’s insurance up to age 26 took effect in the fall of 2010. Young Invincibles and dozens of other organizations reached out to young people across the country with the launch of the Getting Covered campaign. The work of these organizations and the publicity surrounding health care reform paid off, as 2.5 million young adults have joined their parent’s plan in the past year and a half.

Young Invinicbles also created a toolkit outlining the basics of health insurance for young people new to making insurance decisions. By downloading the toolkit for their state, they can learn about their coverage options once they leave school, how to join their parent’s plan, what to do if they have a pre-existing or chronic condition, and more. Know Your Care, a national organization working to educate Americans about the ACA, and dozens of other groups have targeted young people by coordinating campus events across the country and raising awareness online through Facebook and Twitter.

But there is still plenty left to do. Many young Americans will qualify for Medicaid when the program expands to cover childless low-income adults. Health Insurance Exchanges will offer low and middle-income young people a new online marketplace with an opportunity to use federal tax credits to purchase affordable insurance.

Federal and state government decision makers must consider how best to reach newly eligible young Americans. Young Invincibles recently released a report  with implementation recommendations for states. Outreach plays a key role in every area, and YI will follow-up with a report this summer providing best practices for outreach campaigns directed at Millennials (is there a quick point of reference we can provide here for which age group technically qualifies as Millennials?).

We already know of a few strategies that work well to reach this group. It is important to educate young adults about their options before they leave school or leave their parent’s plan. Connecting with young adults online, through smart phones, social media, and text messages should also play a key role as young people rely heavily on these communication avenues. Finally, government and non-government organizations must work to make the enrollment process as straightforward as possible so that inexperienced consumers can successfully buy coverage. Relying on these principles will ensure the ACA succeeds in covering the most uninsured age group in the country.


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