Racy ads, celebrity endorsements, pressure from mom: Efforts to sign up uninsured youth increasing

By Kelli Kennedy

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 1 2014 3:09 p.m. MST

The Obama administration is making the rounds on college campuses to encourage people to sign up and has enlisted celebrities including Lady Gaga and Kerry Washington in its Get Covered social media campaign. Jennifer Hudson and Olivia Wilde were featured in skits pushing the Affordable Care Act on the humor website FunnyorDie.com. In the latest push, an Obama impersonator encourages young adults to tell their friends to get covered in an online rap.

The president himself recently told a group of mothers visiting the Oval Office that: "Moms can tell young people who think they're invincible that they're not and prod them to at least get information."

California state exchange officials even tried to persuade women to pay the first month's premium as a Christmas gift to their adult children and grandchildren.

Experts say engaging young invincibles requires a nuanced touch. They prefer to talk with their peers about pragmatic things they can do to impact the world, but aren't interested in ideological debates, said Morley Winograd, author of 3 books on millenials, including "Millenial Momentum."

But the cost of coverage will play the biggest role, experts say.

More than 3 million young adults have health insurance thanks to the Affordable Care Act because they remained on their parents' health insurance, according to the feds. The law extended the age that children can stay on their parents' plan to 26.

Joshua Benson stayed on his parents' insurance until he turned 26 last year. After that, Benson, who had his pancreas removed and needs daily insulin for his Type 1 diabetes, struggled to find coverage. He was either denied or quoted $2,000 monthly premiums, said the South Florida resident, who works part-time as a grocery store cashier.

He recently enrolled in a platinum plan with no deductible that costs him $170 a month and even covers his endocrinologist. The federal government kicks in another $200 a month.

Benson says he was amused by the Funnyordie.com skits, but said many other ads "are focusing more on getting our attention than actually giving us any valid information."

On the other side of the aisle, groups that oppose the health overhaul such as Generation Opportunity are spreading their message at college tailgate parties. The organization gained a following after disturbing-by-design social media videos featuring a creepy Uncle Sam popping up at gynecological and proctology exams went viral. The tagline urged young adults to keep big government out of their personal health decisions.

The group's recent tailgate party at the University of Miami had all the markings of the South Beach club scene: hired glossy-haired models handing out swag, free alcohol and a sea of sweaty twenty-somethings bumping and grinding to a live DJ.

Mette Jensen, a 22-year-old student, says she supports "Obamacare" even though she signed a petition against it.

"Well, why not. I love free stuff."

Follow Kelli Kennedy on Twitter at www.twitter.com/kkennedyAP. Associated Press writers Brady McCombs in Salt Lake City, Utah and Gillian Flaccus from Los Angeles contributed to this report.

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