Group shares strategies for getting young adults insured

aibarra@mercedsunstar.comApril 24, 2014 

Many young adults are uninsured, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want health insurance.

With the help of the Young Invincibles, the Merced County Health Care Consortium analyzed the Affordable Care Act from the perspective of young adults during a meeting Thursday.

Young Invincibles is a national organization that aims to expand opportunities to young Americans on issues such as health care, jobs and education.

Brian Burrell, California policy and organizing manager for Young Invincibles, explained the different methods and strategies the organization has used to encourage Americans ages 18 to 34 to sign up for coverage.

Technology, creativeness and storytelling have all played a key role, according to Burrell.

As a way to engage millennials, Young Invincibles launched a mobile app that helps people find doctors in their area and provides help with insurance terms people may not be familiar with. The app also features a discount calculator that helps consumers estimate premiums, co-pays and deductibles.

The organization has tuned in with pop culture, reaching out to comedians, actors, local musicians and radio personalities to give public service announcements about getting covered.

It has also held several events, such as open mike nights and enrollment house parties. And although learning about health care doesn’t necessarily draw a crowd, there is always room to make a pitch about the importance of getting covered, Burrell said.

“We want to combat the myth that young people don’t care about health insurance. Many don’t have it simply because they have found it to be unaffordable,” he said.

According to statewide enrollment figures available after the end of the first enrollment period, 29 percent of Californians ages 18 to 34 have obtained coverage through the state’s health insurance exchange, and about 36 percent enrolled for Medi-Cal. Burrell explained that although these enrollment numbers surpassed initial projections, it is important to continue outreach to young adults.

“This is especially important now that young adults can see it actually works,” said Burrell. “Once they put their coverage to work, they can tell their friends and spread the word for when the second open enrollment period comes around in the fall.”

Young Invincibles’ West Coast offices are located in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Burrell said the goal is to expand to more areas across the state.

“Our offices have only been around for a year and half, but we’re working on breaking out to other communities. We’re happy to partner up with other people and local organizations, and hopefully we can do that here in Merced.”

Thursday’s Health Care Consortium meeting was the first since the March 31 and April 15 Covered California deadlines. Local health care support groups shared their thoughts on the rollout and “success” of the first open enrollment period, though enrollment numbers for the county have not been released.

Maeve Ganon, an enrollment assistance program supervisor for Northern California, said regional and county enrollment figures are raw and if released now they wouldn’t be accurate.

However, Kathleen Grassi, the county’s director of public health, said there has been talk about Merced being within the top 10 counties with the highest enrollment in the state.

“If this is true, then it would all be thanks to these people here (at the consortium) who gather each month looking for new ways to outreach to the community,” Grassi said.

Sun-Star staff writer Ana B. Ibarra can be reached at (209) 385-2486 or aibarra @mercedsun-star.com.

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