Calif. Groups Push To Enroll Young Adults in ACA Coverage

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Health care leaders across California and the U.S. are trying to persuade young adults to enroll in health plans under the Affordable Care Act, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Background

In California, more than two million residents ages 19 to 34 are uninsured, according to the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research.

Many young residents who are not covered by employer-sponsored health plans or by their parents' insurance might be eligible for Medi-Cal -- California's Medicaid program -- or to purchase plans through Covered California, the state's health insurance exchange.

Health care leaders want young adults to enroll in health plans to balance the effect of having older, sicker patients in the insurance marketplace.

Health Leaders' Concerns

Under the ACA, nearly every U.S. resident will be required to have health insurance beginning in 2014 or face a fine of $95 or 1% of their household income in the first year.

However, some observers are concerned that the fine is not enough to convince young people to sign up for coverage.

Oscar Hidalgo -- a spokesperson for Covered California -- said, "The penalty itself will not convince a young person, or any other person" to purchase insurance. He said, "Young people will need to understand the risks of not having health insurance."

Larry Levitt -- a senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation -- said that the success of the ACA "depends on reaching everyone who is uninsured, but particularly young people who may feel like they don't need insurance." According to Levitt, convincing young adults to spend money on health insurance will be a "marketing challenge."

Boosting Outreach to Young Adults

Hidalgo said that Covered California is developing media messaging for young adults that is "a little edgier" than outreach efforts for older individuals. He said that the exchange seeks to promote the financial security of having coverage, telling young adults that a health plan can help save them money if they are hospitalized from events such as a car accident or a sudden illness.

Covered California also has granted millions of dollars to universities and public schools to help the campuses educate young adults about the exchange and help them enroll in health plans.

Tamika Butler -- the California director of The Young Invincibles, a policy and advocacy organization -- said the organization has launched a campaign and a mobile health application to raise awareness among young adults about health coverage.

She said the organization is encouraging young people to purchase insurance to have financial peace of mind and to receive preventive medical and mental health care services (Gorman, Los Angeles Times, 6/2).

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