Get Covered America, a national health care enrollment coalition, launched the Michigan Youth Outreach Advisory Council last month in an effort to educate young adults and encourage enrollment in the Affordable Care Act.
The Youth Advisory Outreach Council will be led by GCA committee members state Reps. Adam Zemke (D–Ann Arbor) and Phil Phelps (D–Flushing), Lansing-area philanthropist Lauren Aitch and Emily Todebush, State Public Affairs Chair of the Michigan State Council of Junior Leagues.
“Health coverage outreach and education to young adults is critically important,” Zemke said. “While young consumers stand to benefit greatly from the new options under the Affordable Care Act, they are often new to health insurance and tend to lack health coverage literacy.”
The council is emphasizing the special enrollment period, which is eligible for those who have a “qualifying life event,” such as loss of current coverage, marriage, birth, adoption or a change in immigration status.
Otherwise, under the ACA, Americans can only enroll during specific periods. After the initial enrollment period ended March 31, the next opportunity will begin Nov. 15.
The campaign is also targeting college campuses due to the large number of people who will soon experience a health insurance change. At the age of 26, citizens can no longer use their parents’ healthcare plan.
“This is an opportunity to reach a group of people who are not going to be on their parents’ insurance for much longer, whether they’re going into the Marketplace or they’re lucky enough to find a job that offers them care,” Todebush said.
Erin Knott, state director of GCA, said the mission of the program is informing Michigan youth, improving the conditions for ACA overall as more young citizens are aware of its benefits.
“Our goal is educating young adults about what it means to have health insurance, the difference between co-pays and premiums,” Knott said. “But students also become messengers. They go and talk to their friends about it and spread the word.”
In previous years, GCA used local areas to target the youth. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, more than 8 million people enrolled in the Health Insurance Marketplace over the first enrollment period. In the state of Michigan, a reported 272,539 people enrolled.
“This year, our staff is dedicated to being bigger and bolder,” Knott said. “We’re trying to go deeper into communities and find those folks who didn’t sign up, and we’re trying to get people to enroll with no competing circumstances.”
Todebush, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in early 2013, offers a unique perspective on the health care issue.
“My condition is not easily diagnosed because it’s a long process of tests and meetings with doctors that are all expensive,” Todebush said. “If something like this could happen to me, it can happen to anyone, no matter how young and healthy.”
The ACA, commonly referred to as “Obamacare,” has been a prominent and polarizing political issue on the national level. It also experienced multiple technical issues and failures in its initial launch. Sept. 30 marked a deadline for enrolled families to verify their incomes or else pay back subsidies they received under the ACA. The council stresses that this is now law, and politics are no longer an issue or a barrier to enrollment.
“This isn’t a left or right issue,” Knott said. “What we’re doing is cutting out the rhetoric and just giving people the facts.”