By: Jonnelle Marte
Young Invincibles , a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C. that is focused on the economic issues affecting young adults, launched a sweepstakes last week where it is awarding a cash prize of $1,200 — enough to potentially cover a year’s worth of health insurance premiums for a young adult — to people who download their health care app or submit a card in the mail. The contest runs through the fall, but by launching it now, organizers hope young people who download the app can use it to learn more about whether they qualify for financial assistance and where they should go to sign up. “This last month is going to be a huge push for educating young adults,” says Jen Mishory, deputy director for Young Invincibles.
What’s behind these new incentives? A government report released Tuesday showed that 4.2 million people chose private insurance plans through March 1, meaning 2.8 million people would need to buy coverage this month if the Obama administration is to meet its initial goal of signing up 7 million people by the end of the enrollment period. In an analysis released Wednesday, Avalere Health, a consulting firm based in Washington, D.C., said it expects total enrollment will top out at 5.4 million by the end of the month.
Young people are particularly lagging behind in other groups in signing up. So far, 25% of those who have selected private plans are between the ages of 18 and 34. Administration officials have said repeatedly that they expect young and healthy people to put off signing up for insurance until the last minute. So groups are getting creative with their approach in the final push.
Zach Galifianakis scored a big get with his latest guest for “Between Two Ferns:” President Barack Obama. Their satirical interview helped push millions to the HealthCare.gov site on Tuesday, the White House says. Laura Meckler reports on the News Hub. Photo: FunnyOrDie.com.
Kyle Pfister, founder of Ninjas for Health, a startup based in Milwaukee that consults for public health agencies, got local musicians talking — and singing — about the law by giving them an artistic task: write a song about the benefits of getting health insurance. After more than 10 artists gathered to sing and record a video for the song, dubbed “Sing Forward,” he engaged other local musicians by challenging them with a competition to see who could develop the best remix of the song.
Some artists rapped the lyrics, while others submitted videos of them whistling the entire song. And some sped up the song and added techno beats. Hannah Conklin, one of the winners announced Wednesday afternoon, recorded herself on Valentine’s Day singing a folk version of the song on a street corner in Asheville, N.C., where she lives now, as two people dressed in heart costumes danced alongside her.“We will sing forward, our health to yours ,” the 28-year-old belted while strumming her red guitar.
Conklin, who sings by the name Hannah Rebekah, is the kind of artist Pfister is hoping to reach. She knew very little about the law when she moved back to the U.S. from Japan in September and doesn’t have insurance, but she is now talking to navigators about her options. And Anna Vogelzang, 29, the local artist who wrote the song, says many of her musician friends found less expensive insurance plans through the insurance exchanges. (She already had insurance through her husband’s job.) “We’re starting a conversation with people who wouldn’t normally be talking about this,” says Pfister, who says he has no hard numbers for how many people reached out to navigators or visited HealthCare.gov as a result of the contest.
State-based exchanges are also trying alternative approaches. DC Health Link, the exchange for Washington, D.C., promoted their new educational app at a local bar last week. The Washington Health Benefit Exchange in Washington state is partnering with roller derby groups to help spread the word. And Connect for Health Colorado held a comedy show for earlier this month in Greely that targeted young adults. Other groups are holding creative competitions and targeting specific professions. “We are trying to figure out how to get the most out of every hour,” says Rachel Klein, the enrollment program director for Families USA, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit consumer advocacy group that supports the law.
Even President Obama is changing the tone of his message. In a six-minute Web video that went viral this week, the president pitched HealthCare.gov to young people during an awkward, dry and comedic interview with actor and “The Hangover” star Zach Galifianakis.
“I heard about that, that’s the thing that doesn’t work,” Galifianakis told the president during the segment, in which he also asked the president if he plans to build his presidential library in Kenya and who he rooted for during the winter Olympics.
“The point is that a lot of young people, they think they’re invincible,” the president said, to which Galifianakis replied, “Did you say invisible?” The Funny or Die video sent more than 54,000 referrals to HealthCare.gov Tuesday, and the government site received more than 890,000 visits by the end of the day, up 40% from Monday.
Supporters and government officials are also shifting the thrust of their message, moving away from emotional ploys to get people to think about how they might benefit and pointing out that they need to act right now. Enroll America, a nonprofit organization working to increase access to health insurance, is dedicating less real estate on its consumer-focused website, GetCoveredAmerica.org , to sharing success stories of people who got covered. Instead it is more prominently featuring tools that can help people figure out if they are likely to qualify for subsidies and help them find a navigator.
The group has also cut back on door-to-door canvassing and is holding mass enrollment events in churches, mosques and universities around the country. “Think about a church where you might reach a few hundred people versus door-to-door where you might reach five people in one hour,” said president Anne Filipic during an interview in their D.C. headquarters this week. She added that their education initiatives will continue well into the summer as they prepare for the next open enrollment season. “There is a lot of attention on the March 31 deadline, but we’re not shutting our doors after that.”