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Young enrollees sought for ACA

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WASHINGTON —  Seeking to boost the number of young people getting health insurance through the Affordable Care Act, the Obama administration is employing targeted digital communications and social ­media.

The White House Healthy Campus Challenge will engage college and university campuses in enrollment efforts nationwide.

ACA enrollment sign upclose_Rite Aid“We will work with administrators, students, faculty, staff, alumni, and local community leaders and elected officials to reach the uninsured both on campus and in the surrounding community, sharing best practices with them that have worked during prior open enrollment periods,” said White House chief of staff Denis ­McDonough.

The number of healthy young adults signing up for coverage under the ACA has thus far been disappointing. The law’s fourth enrollment period starts November 1, with registrants getting coverage for next year. For 2016, less than 30% of the nearly 13 million people who got plans on ACA exchanges were between the ages of 18 and 34. Analysts said 40% of enrollees must be in that age range if the law is to work.

The lack of young people obtaining coverage is one cause of skyrocketing premiums and the withdrawal from some state exchanges by major insurers who say continued participation would be a money-losing proposition.

The White House initiative asks campus organizations to commit to by November 1 and act by December 15 on a set of best practices, such as hosting open enrollment activities on campus and sending reminder emails to students and others around deadlines. Doing so will earn recognition from the president and entry into a lottery for a chance to attend Healthy Campus Day at the White House in January in the administration’s final push toward the January 31 open enrollment deadline.

The administration’s effort includes contracting with online platforms such as Twitch, billed as the world’s leading video platform and community for gamers, attracting more than 45 million gamers every month. The White House will also collaborate with partners who will employ such platforms as Facebook, Snapchat and Tumblr, using the #HealthyAdulting, to discuss medical issues of concern to young people, such as reproductive health. These efforts are expected to reach nearly 5 million followers.

While the White House will work with all types of colleges and universities, it will focus on community colleges, whose students may not be able to get covered through their school or may not have access to parents’ plans.

Access to affordable health care is a “foundation of the path to the middle class,” said McDonough. “So we are hopeful that this challenge will succeed in empowering campuses across the country to enroll young Americans not just for the semesters ahead, but for years to come.”


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