We’ve Only Just Begun

By Guest Blogger

The new data released by the Census Bureau this week are reassuring and hint at the opportunities to come over the next few years. For the second year in a row, the number of children and young adults with health coverage rose. Children and youth aged 18 and younger are enjoying these gains largely thanks to the coverage available through Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Young adults are more likely to be covered as a result of provisions in the Affordable Care Act that allow them to stay on their parents’ plan until they turn 26. But the gains weren’t limited to the youngest Americans. This year, adults aged 35-44 years old are also more likely to have coverage than they were last year.  

These gains—a net gain of about 1.3 million people—were possible for at least two reasons: (1) affordable coverage was available to families and individuals who needed it through a variety of sources (Medicaid, CHIP, Medicare, and the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Program, as well as the extension of private insurance coverage for young adults), and (2) outreach efforts like the CHIPRA outreach grants and the Young Invincibles’ Get Covered campaign got the message out, leveraged partnerships among different stakeholder groups, and provided boots on the ground to offer enrollment assistance, so that people understood their options and got (or stayed) covered.

That’s exactly the kind of engagement that will be needed next year, when millions of the remaining 48.6 million uninsured Americans will be able to start applying for coverage available through health insurance exchanges and expanded Medicaid. The coverage will be there, but without outreach and education, enrollment could fall far short of its potential. We have a challenge—and an opportunity—to ensure that the word gets out and that people have the assistance they need to apply for coverage, choose a health plan, and enroll. But in order to get this work done, we all need to roll up our sleeves and work together.

On the eve of the one-year anniversary of our launch, Enroll America is proud to have close to 60 partners on our Advisory Council, Technical Experts Group, and Board of Directors. Our partners span the gamut, from hospitals and health plans to consumer groups, clinicians, civic organizations, pharmaceutical companies, and retail pharmacies. In our second year, we will grow this list and work to engage stakeholders in the states to ensure everyone has the tools, resources, and connections they need to get as many people enrolled as possible. The gains made last year are real, but they are just the beginning. This week’s new uninsured data are a reminder of the work that lies ahead, but they also remind us that real, measurable change is possible when we do that work well. And like many one-year olds staring down their first birthday cake, we’re eager to dig in!

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