The White House is kicking off a big push to fix Obamacare’s largest problem

Obama Obamacare young people
U.S. President Barack Obama meets with young citizens at Columbia Height’s restaurant The Coupe on January 10, 2014 in Washington, DC Pool/Getty Images

Obamacare needs millennials, so the White House is going after them.

The White House, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Secretary of Education, and private groups convened in Washington for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) Millennial Outreach and Engagement Summit on Tuesday.

The Summit was the launch of a campaign to reach out to young people and get them to sign up for plans through the ACA exchanges, better known as the Obamacare marketplaces.

The push is important because over the past few years, the people signing up through the exchanges have skewed older and have lead to significant losses for insurers offering plans through Obamacare.

Generally, young, healthy people pay into the system while older, sicker people are net losses for insurers, so having fewer of the former and more of the latter signing up for insurance can lead to problems.

Additionally, there remains a wide gap in the uninsured rate of those under 35 and those between 45 and 65 years old. A recent CDC report estimated that 15.9% of 25-34 year olds lacked insurance, nearly twice the 8.1% uninsurance rate for 45-65 year olds.

In turn, health insurance companies have started to cut bait on the losses and remove their plans from some states. Major insurers such as Aetna, UnitedHealthcare, and Cigna have all reduced their ACA business.

In order to reach millennials in the crucial open enrollment period, it appears the administration is ready to dramatically expand their outreach channels.

In addition to typical emails and phone calls to young people without coverage, HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell said that the administration is even partnering with social livestream platform Twitch in order to reach young people where they get their entertainment. Twitch is used primarily to stream people playing video games.

Burwell also said that HHS will take part in other “paid partnerships with online platforms that are on the cutting edge, reaching young people when they’re most likely to be plugged into media and entertainment” and that the HHS has updated its mobile site, since mobile has become an increasingly important mode of consumption for millennials.

Another element that should prod more millennial sign ups is the full tax penalty for not having coverage going into effect this year. Additionally, proposed plans from the Centres for Medicare and Medicaid Services will make it harder for millennials to sign up outside of the open enrollment period. These policy penalties will make it more urgent for young people to get covered.

Thus, with the ACA open enrollment period starting in a little over a month on November 1, the Obama administration is in do-or-die mode to get the word out on signing up for healthcare. With the slew of insurers pulling out of the ACA marketplaces and a loud chorus declaring Obamacare to be in a “death spiral” the outreach takes on a sense of urgency in the final year of the Obama presidency.

If the administration can get more millennial sign-ups and start to show that the exchanges can work, it could inspire more insurers to get back into the exchanges. If not, it could be another blow to one of Obama’s signature legislative achievements.

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