The open enrollment period for Obamacare’s new state-level marketplaces ended in April, and the media attention to the enrollment process has declined since then, too. But even though they may not realize it, it’s actually still possible for some people to sign up.
Anyone who experiences a “life-changing event” — graduating from college and losing a student health plan, moving to a new home, getting married, having or adopting a baby, or turning 26 years old — may be eligible to enroll in a new marketplace plan even before the next enrollment period starts in the fall. They can take advantage of what’s called Special Enrollment.
But they have to enroll within 60 days of their life event, a window that can quickly pass if they don’t realize how their recent changes apply to their health coverage. That’s why Young Invincibles, a national nonprofit that focuses on empowering young Americans to get involved in issues like health care reform and higher education, is launching a summer campaign to help spread the word about Special Enrollment.
“For a student graduating from college, for example, health insurance isn’t necessarily going to be the first thing on the list. They’re looking for a place to live, looking for a job, maybe planning a summer vacation to celebrate having just graduated,” Christina Postolowski, a senior policy analyst at Young Invincibles, told ThinkProgress. “We want to let people know about their options and hopefully help young adults avoid those gaps in coverage.”
The campaign is targeting young Americans because they’re more likely to experience life events that qualify them for Special Enrollment. For instance, more than 80 percent of all new mothers are younger than 35, and the average American gets married in their mid-twenties. Young adults also switch jobs more frequently than older people. And roughly 4.2 million Americans will turn 26 this year, which means they’ll no longer be able to remain a dependent on their parents’ insurance and they’ll need to get a plan of their own. Some young adults will experience more than one of these events in one year.
Young Invincibles is planning to reach out to young people this summer by connecting with them in places where they’re already spending their time. Advocates will post information about health care on mommy blogs and wedding blogs, in lamaze classes for expectant parents, and at job information fairs. They’re also planning to do targeted Facebook and Twitter ads.
There’s been a lot of focus on young adults’ interest in Obamacare, since the health law’s new marketplaces need enough younger and healthier enrollees to balance out the older and sicker ones. Throughout the first open enrollment period, there was speculation that young people didn’t know anything about Obamacare and weren’t going to sign up. But those fears were largely unfounded. More than a million young people signed up for new health plans in the final month of enrollment, and so far, the portion of young enrollees is in line with previous health reform experience from Massachusetts.
Postolowski pointed out that even though young people may need some help learning about their health care options as they navigate big life events, that doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t want to be insured.
“One of the reasons that Young Invincibles was founded as an organization is to really dispel this myth that young people don’t care about health coverage,” Postolowski said. “Back then, when we surveyed young people about the economic issues they care about the most, they said it was health care, higher education, and jobs.”