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Friday, February 14, 2014

National Youth Enrollment Day to Serve as Opportunity for Young Adults to Buy Health Insurance, Secure Peace of Mind

Meet Nathan: Nathan is a graduate student studying screenwriting, and he works as an in-home care provider for people with autism. He’s 30-years-old, and because of the Affordable Care Act, he has health insurance. Without the Affordable Care Act, that wouldn’t be possible.

Nathan makes $20,000 per year, and he is a survivor. Eight years ago, he was diagnosed with a brain tumor (that he named, “Fred”). Covered by his parents’ health insurance at the time, he was able to get the expensive treatment he needed, and he survived (“Fred” did not). Recently, he purchased a health insurance plan from the new health insurance marketplace, with a monthly premium of just more than $111 per month. He thinks that this insurance will save him $7,000 per year. With the extra money, he’ll travel, shop, and take his clients out to lunch.

Nathan is not alone—not as a cancer survivor, nor as a young adult who’s had his life altered as a result of buying health insurance in the marketplace. New data released by the US Department of Health and Human Services this week show that 3.3 million people enrolled in health insurance in a marketplace as of January 30, 2014. That includes 807,515 adults ages 18 -34. Young adult enrollment numbers grew by nearly two-thirds in January, suggesting that enrollment momentum is increasing as we get closer to March 31, 2014, the end of the first open enrollment period.

One of the questions about the Affordable Care Act has been about whether young adults will buy health insurance in large enough numbers to ensure a healthy risk pool. While some, like Nathan, have already experienced serious health issues because of fate or because of their jobs, or because of their passions (just ask the Olympic athletes in Sochi about their many injuries), most young adults are relatively healthier than are older people. So ensuring they buy health coverage remains a key goal for policymakers concerned with the long-term sustainability of health insurance exchanges and for insurers.

But getting health insurance is not about the sustainability of the risk pool for the millions of young adults who have already bought or are shopping for coverage. It’s about the same peace of mind and protection against bankruptcy that drives most of us to buy insurance. Unfortunately, according to a recent survey of uninsured adults that Enroll America conducted, a shocking number of young adults still do not know that there is financial help available to make insurance more affordable. Plus, the vast majority remains unaware that March 31, 2014, is the deadline to buy coverage through a health insurance marketplace.

So how many young adults will sign up for health insurance in the marketplace in 2014? It’s still too early to say. There are 45 days left in this open enrollment period, and momentum is growing. People like Nathan are bridging the awareness gap by telling their friends, neighbors, coworkers, and family members about how the Affordable Care Act has helped them. Many, like Nathan, are sharing their stories through, and every day more people are learning about their opportunity to buy health insurance, save money, and make the smart choice. It is up to all of us to keep that momentum going.

To view infographics on state youth enrollment data, click here.