Obamacare Outreach: You Can Help

obamacareDo you know what a health insurance exchange is? Do you know when the exchanges around the country open?

If you answered yes, way to go! If you answered no, well… you are a member of a very large club.

Health insurance exchanges are the online marketplaces through which Americans will be able to purchase insurance. They’re part of the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare). Through the North Carolina exchange, you will be able to look at numerous insurance plans, compare premiums and costs, and determine if you qualify for a subsidy to help you pay for insurance. There’s a lot of information available at HealthCare.gov.

The exchanges open in less than a month—on October 1, with coverage beginning on January 1. Several state and national nonprofit organizations are working to inform people about the exchanges and get them signed up for insurance.

That’s going to be a big job, especially when it comes to getting young people enrolled. Bringing young, healthy people into the ranks of the insured is essential for the success of health reform because they offset the risks and costs insurance companies will have to take on when they provide affordable coverage to older and sicker Americans.

Many young adults already benefit from the Obamacare provision that allows them to stay on their parents’ insurance until age 26. A new survey by the Commonwealth Fund finds, “Of the estimated 15 million young adults enrolled in a parent’s plan in the prior 12 months, 7.8 million would not likely have been eligible to enroll prior to the law.”

But the survey also says that only 27% of 19- to 29-year olds are aware of the exchanges. Those who have the most to gain are the least aware; of those young adults who are uninsured, 74% of them didn’t know about the exchanges.

In the context of health reform, 19- to 34-year olds have been dubbed the “young invincibles,” a nickname based on the assumption that young people don’t think they need insurance.

Turns out, that assumption is way off base. A poll by The Morning Consult, a health care policy media company, found that “young adults are the most supportive of the health care law across age groups,” and that “they are notably more likely to consider purchasing insurance on the exchanges.” So it’s not that young people don’t care; they just don’t have all of the information.

North Carolina has more than 1.3 million uninsured people and about 435,000 who pay for individual insurance, according to the Raleigh News & Observer. More than one million people in North Carolina will likely be eligible for subsidies to help them pay for insurance.

That’s a lot of people who “navigators” in North Carolina must reach. Four organizations in the state received $3 million total in federal grants to train these so-called navigators, who will educate people and get them enrolled– but that’s not going to be enough to reach the tens of thousands of young people who currently remain oblivious. The state government has made it clear it will do nothing to help promote the exchanges, and some Congressional representatives, such as Rep. Renee Ellmers, are actively trying to make it harder for the navigators to do their jobs.

You can help. Check out the websites for Enroll America, Get Covered America, and the Young Invincibles. Consider scheduling a house party and invite your neighbors over. Volunteer on one of the sites or make a donation. Print out a bunch of flyers and hand them out at your place of worship or nearby fast-food joint.

There’s a lot of work to do, and it’s time to pitch in.




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