With less than two weeks left in Obamacare's open enrollment period, the focus is on getting young people signed up for coverage. How advocates are approaching this goal is taking different forms. Let's look at a few.
Looking for love? How about health insurance instead?
Supporters of the health care law have focused on getting mothers to encourage their young adult children to enroll in coverage. And we all know how much young people love their smartphones. So Rhode Island’s exchange thought up the “Nag Toolkit,” which instructs mothers on how they can encourage their kids to get insured through social media channels and, yes, online dating services.
The Rhode Island exchange, known as HealthSource RI, provides instructions for how mothers can reach their kids with a pro-coverage message through five different online channels: Snapchat, OK Cupid, Twitter, Vine and Tinder.
Let’s take the Tinder example. First off, Tinder is a free smartphone-based dating app that connects singles with others in their area. People sign up through their Facebook accounts, and the Tinder app shows other singles and any Facebook friends and interests you may share with potential matches.
So, how does this relate to health insurance? Imagine you’re scrolling through potential matches, and suddenly you see a picture of your mother holding a sign that reads “Get health insurance.” That’s what Rhode Island is going for:
The risk of finding your mother on a dating site struck me as kind of creepy, a sentiment I conveyed to Rhode Island exchange director Christine Ferguson. That didn't bother her too much.
About 1,100 people have visited the "Nag Toolkit" since it launched on Thursday, Ferguson said this morning. She said she hadn't seen any examples of mothers setting up Tinder accounts, but the larger point was to spark a conversation about health insurance.
"My perspective on it is with any advertising campaign, you've going to get people who love it and people who hate it," she said. "But the key thing is whether everyone talks about it because from our perspective, what we're trying to do is raise awareness to get people to come to the website."
According to the latest Health and Human Services enrollment report, 26 percent of those signing up on Rhode Island's exchange are between 18 and 34 years old – just a tick ahead of the 25 percent rate nationally. Ferguson said the state has a "decent" age distribution, but she'd like to see it improve.
Other ways to use your smartphone
The District of Columbia’s exchange, which has the best enrollment mix of any insurance marketplace, is also using smartphones to boost enrollment. They're leaving the mothers out of this one, though.
D.C. Health Link released its own smartphone app just this month. The app doesn’t actually allow for enrollment – that’s something that exchange has planned for the 2015 enrollment period. In the meantime, though, people can use the app to calculate health care costs, contact Health Link staff and find the nearest in-person assister or insurance broker to help them sign up.
Through the end of February, about 45 percent of D.C. signups are among 18- to 34-year-olds, according to the latest HHS figures. That's a mix that any other exchange would be envious of.
The old brick-and-mortar approach
Colorado's health insurance exchange has opened a temporary storefront in a Denver mall for the last few weeks of enrollment. It has other walk-in sites planned over the next two weeks, as well.
The storefront approach was first used by Connecticut's exchange, which has already passed its enrollment goal for the year. Connecticut's exchange opened its first health insurance store in November, and it is reportedly enrolling about 300 to 400 costumers each day.
Risk of injury
The White House generated huge traffic to Healthcare.gov last week after President Barack Obama's interview with Zach Galifiankis aired. The White House is still looking for ways to bring young people to the enrollment website.
Yesterday, the White House used GIFs to illustrate reasons for young people to enroll in coverage. Today, the White House is using the risk of sports injuries to push their coverage message.
About 2 million people went to the emergency room for sports injuries in 2012, and the costs could add up if you're not insured, according to new data issued by HHS. On average, the cost of treating a broken arm could cost $7,700 without coverage. The White House also had the Miami Heat's Shane Battier help drive that message home on a conference call today.
There are less than two weeks to go. The enrollment messaging is only going to get more intense from here.