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Obamacare and Millennial Enrollment: GSEI Student Leader Attends Outreach and Engagement Summit

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Bryan at the White House

By Bryan Vodicka (MBA'18)

This week, news broke that Affordable Care Act premiums will rise 22% on average in 2017, driven by too few young, healthy Americans enrolling. Although ACA passage provided many previously uninsured Americans with coverage, enrollment by young adults (19 – 34) continues to be slow, accounting for 48% of the remaining uninsured population (Commonwealth Fund). Many still see the cost of insurance as too high, not understanding the reality of savings or available plans, or simply still do not understand the sometimes daunting sign up process.

These vital issues were addressed on September 27th when the White House hosted the Millennial Outreach and Engagement Summit in partnership with Young Invincibles to share ideas and previous successes, and build excitement among those working to educate millennials and drive enrollment.

The day featured remarks by Secretary Burwell of Health and Human Services, emphasizing budding partnerships with platforms, such as Twitch, that have high concentrations of millennial users, trying to drive down the 18.1% of young adults that remain uninsured. HHS is also optimizing the mobile signup experience to allow young adults to sign up as conveniently and familiarly as possible, using their devices.

Secretary of Education John King discussed existing successes deploying tools and programs for K-12, and noted that students must remain healthy in order to take advantage of educational opportunities before them.  To encourage efforts on college and university campuses he also announced the White House Healthy Campus Challenge, where campuses complete a set of outreach activities and are recognized by President Obama.

The day’s panels drove home realities of work being done to increase enrollment by young adults. First were discussions about successful campaigns and toolsets, including My Campus, Our Coverage by Enroll America, Got Insurance? by Colorado Consumer Health Initiative, and the PriorityRewards incentive program by Priority Health. It also included key messages from Brad Jenkins (Funny or Die) about the need to do the unexpected and meet young adults where they are (and where their attention is), and encouragement to set clear targets and run iterative tests. Panels also included leaders from local affinity groups, representing men’s health, black women and girls, and the LGBTQ community. Their messages again resonated the need for cultural competency and to find people at the right moment.

The event also brought both private sector stakeholders, including major on-demand economy employers, present to learn more about gaining coverage for employees. Independent contractors represent a category that continues to see potential for increased enrollment and coverage.

Rising news coverage this week surrounding premium increases and reduced insurer participation shows the critical importance of enrollment in making the ACA a success. The day reinforced the idea that effectively incentivizing good health decisions is a powerful way to drive positive behaviors; the crucial need to understand who people are, what they care about, and where they spend their time and attention; and that information must be simple and communicated effectively. The future of millennial participation relies on these ideas being understood, and that generation is pivotal to success of the act itself.