Last week, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced it was escalating its efforts to to enroll young people in health insurance by, among other things, offering discounts to users of the ride sharing service Lyft who travel to open enrollment events.
Getting young and healthy people covered has been a major goal of the Affordable Care Act, the sweeping health care reform legislation known as Obamacare.
“It’s to everyone’s advantage that young people be insured, because they help to balance out those with more chronic conditions.” said Ludwig Spinelli, CEO of Optimus Healthcare, a federally qualified health center with 16 sites statewide, including those in Bridgeport and Stamford.
The agency has helped people enroll in insurance through the state’s health care exchange, Access Health CT.
Though Spinelli and other experts agreed that young people are essential to keeping the exchanges functioning, getting them in the mix can be tricky.
“A lot of young people think they’re invincible” and won’t need health care or health coverage, he said.
Courting the young
Given the role they play in sustaining the marketplace, federal, state and local entities all want to draw in more young folks — primarily those about to turn 26 and lose their ability to be covered by their parents’ insurance.
“One of the big (missions) with 24, 25, 26-year-olds is letting them know ‘you’re going to get kicked off your parents’ insurance,” said Access Health CT marketing director Andrea Ravitz . “A lot of them don’t know that.”
Allowing young people to stay on their parents’ insurance until 26 was one of the provisions of the Affordable Care Act. Due largely to this piece of the law, about 6 million Americans age 19 to 25 gained health coverage since the act went into effect.
But what happens when these young people turn 26? Census figures cited by the Department of Health and Human Services show that uninsured rates are nearly 4 percent higher for 26-year-olds than 25-year-olds.
Other department figures confirm that, despite the strides made by the Affordable Care Act, young and healthy people are still more likely than average to remain uninsured. Of those who remained uninsured after the last open enrollment period, 27 percent were younger than 30, and 68 percent were deemed to be of “low health risk.”
In Connecticut, the state has made excellent progress in drawing a younger demographic, Ravitz said. During the most recent open enrollment period, the average age of new customers was 39.4 — a notable drop from the average age of new customers during the previous open enrollment period, which was 44.
But Ravitz said the exchange is constantly looking for ways to court young users.
Rides, apps and beyond
Most of those recruitment efforts heavily lean on youth-friendly social media.
The federal government’s plan to snag more people in the younger demographic is complex and multi-tiered, and involves everything from reaching out to those who paid the federal penalty for being uninsured in 2015 — many of whom were younger adults — to offering those Lyft discounts.
Other facets of the government’s plan include partnering with the American Hospital Association on a media toolkit hospitals can use to teach young people about insurance and enrollment, and having the White House host a National Millennial Health Summit on Sept. 27.
In Connecticut, Access Health has taken numerous steps to recruit younger people, including partnering with Live Nation Entertainment, which promotes concerts and other live events.
Ravitz said Access Health staff have had a presence at multiple concerts, offering information and assistance to event goers. Other efforts include a series of videos, accessible through Access Health’s social media platforms, called “What’s Health Got to Do With it?” in which young staffers discuss their health concerns.
“Those have been really well-received,” Ravitz said. “This is really meant to be conversational and not too serious.”
On a more local level, Spinelli said, in July, Optimus will offer a mobile app that will allow consumers to learn more about health care and insurance enrollment. Though Spinelli said the app wasn’t designed specifically with young people in mind “young people are more likely to use apps than geriatrics.”
Ravitz said efforts to recruit young consumers will continue, and won’t just focus on annual open enrollment events.
“We’re moving forward from that and focusing on year-round outreach,” she said.
Author: Amanda Cuda
Source: Hearst Media Services Connecticut, LLC
Retrieved from: www.ctpost.com
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