January 23, 2014
By Sara Gilgore
Following the release of Affordable Care Act enrollment figures last week from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, organizations in Illinois are continuing to educate people about health insurance options during the remainder of the open enrollment period.
The HHS report revealed that 23 percent of the Illinois residents who registered for coverage in the online exchanges during the first wave of open enrollment were 18 to 34. Nationally, this demographic represented 24 percent of total marketplace registration between Oct. 1 and Dec. 28.
As the March 31 deadline for open enrollment approaches, these “young invincibles,” a term popularized by the American health care industry, have been a focus of the ACA conversation. Their participation is important “to keep insurance markets stable,” according to a Kaiser Family Foundation Dec. 17 article. Put simply, this is because they are generally healthy and insurance companies can afford to insure them, whereas older people might be more costly to insure.
Organizations like Enroll America are working in Illinois to inform people about plans available to them by the ACA, through outreach efforts and enrollment events.
“I think that sense of urgency is starting to take effect,” said David Elin, state director for Enroll America. “I’m encouraged by [the higher number of young adults], and I think that it will increase.”
Young Invincibles, a non-profit organization, is partnering with other groups to continue to educate young adults about health care. The Midwest Regional Manager Brian Burrell said they do not have a “set goal” to reach by the deadline.
“We’re not necessarily thinking that there’s anything to worry about right now,” Burrell said. “There’s a lot of time for young adults to sign up.”
Get Covered Illinois, the official marketplace for the state, is likewise working to inform people about registration.
“We are confident that we have been thoughtful, strategic and comprehensive in our efforts to facilitate enrollment for all who need coverage, and removing any possible barrier to accessibility to get enrolled,” Get Covered Illinois spokeswoman Sabrina Miller said in a Jan. 22 email.
Though young adults remain a target group for grassroots organizations and insurance companies, age is not the only relevant factor in determining future enrollment numbers.
“I think the important thing in reality is not just getting young people,” said Sarah Lueck, senior policy analyst for the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. “It’s getting an overall well-balanced pool and also healthy people of all ages.”
Tim Jost, professor in the Washington and Lee University School of Law, in Lexington, Va., said many factors are involved in predicting what will happen at the March deadline, such as the percentage insurers projected when they established their premiums. “The system isn’t going to collapse” if the numbers are not as high as initial projections, Jost said.
In partnership with Get Covered America, the Young Invincibles will host National Youth Enrollment Day Feb. 15 as one of the many statewide efforts to disseminate information about registration.
People who enroll at getcoveredillinois.gov by Feb. 15 are eligible for coverage beginning March 1. Open enrollment for health insurance coverage remains open until March 31.