partlycloudy
Friday May 27th, 2016 2:22PM

Scramble to sign up the young by health deadline

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor
WASHINGTON (AP) -- "Do you guys have health insurance?" David Bransfield asks each time a group of backpack-toting college students passes by.

Some nod yes. A few promise to stop back after class. Others don't bother removing their headphones.

Nearly every day, Bransfield comes to a satellite campus of the University of the District of Columbia in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol, sitting for hours behind a table in the lobby of a classroom building. Armed with an Apple laptop and a pile of fliers, he's part of the army of workers and volunteers fanned out around the country trying to enroll young - and probably healthy - people in health insurance available through President Barack Obama's signature law.

Run largely by groups with close ties to the White House, the on-the-ground recruiting effort is based in part on lessons learned from Obama's two presidential bids, which revolutionized the way campaigns tracked and targeted voters.

"On the campaign, you want to be able to find an Obama voter and you want to get them to vote," said Matt Saniie, who worked on the 2012 campaign's data team and is now analytics director at the organization Enroll America. "In the enrollment world, you want to find someone who is uninsured and you want to get them to enroll."

More than any other group, participation from the so-called young invincibles - people ages 18-34 - will be crucial to the health law's success. The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that about 40 percent of those who enroll need to be young and healthy in order to balance out the higher costs of insuring older, sicker people.

But less than two months before the March 31 sign-up deadline, the administration is lagging behind its goal. Young adults made up about one-fourth of the 2.2 million people who enrolled in the exchanges through December, the last time the administration released demographic data. Officials announced in mid-January that a total of 3 million people had enrolled in insurance plans, but they didn't update the demographic details.

Critics of the health care law say young people were most likely to be turned off by the massive technical problems that marred the first two months of online sign-ups. And they argue some young people will opt to pay the $95 penalty for not enrolling rather than pay more to get covered. A December Gallup poll found that 26 percent of uninsured people under the age of 30 intended to pay the fine rather than enroll.

White House officials have minimized the slow enrollment by young people, saying they always expected those in their 20s and 30s to enroll toward the end of the six-month sign-up period. Spokesman Jay Carney said young people are more likely to be deadline driven and "late to the party when it comes to signing up."

Megan Chapman is among the holdouts. The 23-year-old college student from High Point, N.C., has been without health insurance for several years. She's been thinking about signing up through the new federal marketplace but said she's heard conflicting information about the costs, prompting her to do more research before she follows through.

"It just depends on the price and how much financial aid I can get," said Chapman, her laptop and spiral notebook spread out before her as she worked in the Guilford Technical Community College cafeteria in Jamestown, N.C. "I'm unemployed. I can't pay a whole lot of money. So that will definitely be a major factor."

As Chapman studied, a volunteer from Enroll America was going from table to table in the cafeteria, encouraging uninsured students to sign up for coverage. The volunteer, retired dentist Benjamin Williams, 75, didn't persuade Chapman to enroll, but he did get her to sign a card setting her up for a follow-up phone call to answer her health care questions. With Chapman's personal information now in Enroll America's system, volunteers will almost certainly keep tabs on her enrollment status through the March 31 deadline, mirroring the way the Obama campaign kept track of likely Democratic voters.

Unlike the political campaign, in which staffers relied on voting records to track possible supporters, there's no ready-made list of the uninsured. So outside groups are compiling their own databases through contacts their volunteers make while they're promoting the health law at colleges, bars, church youth group events, even laundromats.

Marlon Marshall, another veteran of Obama's presidential campaigns, who now oversees health care outreach efforts for the White House, said the strategy for signing up young people it to "meet them where they're at."

The approach worked for Philippe Komongnan, 27, a student at the University of the District of Columbia. Komongnan thought he had health insurance, but when a bad ear infection brought him to the emergency room last year, he was told he no longer had coverage. Because his school requires students to have health insurance, he had to sign up for coverage through the college that costs nearly $700 per semester.

Then Komongnan started noticing a health care display in the lobby of his classroom building, the one where Bransfield works most days. After a couple of conversations, Bransfield plugged Komongnan's information into Washington's health care website and discovered that he qualified for Medicaid, which has been expanded under the new health law. While Komongnan's health insurance costs will be reduced dramatically, he doesn't count toward the pool of young and healthy people the White House is courting since he's getting coverage through Medicaid, not the new private marketplace.

Bransfield, who works for the aptly named organization Young Invincibles, said signing up young people takes patience, given that most are buying insurance on their own for the first time. The process can sometimes take weeks, he said, as people collect the information they need to enroll or weigh the options available to them.

But the rapidly approaching March 31 deadline has increased the pressure on Bransfield to get the students through the system faster.

"We're trying to make sure it feels urgent," he said.
© Copyright 2016 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Judge denies motions to move, delay Tsarnaev trial
Lawyers for Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev asked a federal appeals court Wednesday to overturn a judge's decision to not move his upcoming trial out of state.
10:02PM ( 1 year ago )
High court to adopt electronic filing of cases
The Supreme Court is belatedly developing an electronic filing system similar to those used in courts around the country, Chief Justice John Roberts said Wednesday in his annual end-of-year report.
7:57PM ( 1 year ago )
Storm brings snow, cold to West for New Year's
A blustery winter storm dumped snow and ice across the West on Wednesday, making driving treacherous in the mountains from California to the Rockies and forcing residents and party-goers in some usually sun-soaked cities to bundle up for a frosty New Year's.
5:19PM ( 1 year ago )
U.S. News
State DOT awards $48M contract for NE Ga. road project
The state Department of Transportation has awarded a $47.8 million contract for nine miles of work on a northeast Georgia road.
9:37AM ( 1 year ago )
Business News
Grass fire impacts rush hour traffic on 985
Rush hour traffic on I-985 was slowed by a grass fire Wednesay afternoon with one lane closed while firefighters fought the blaze.
10:19PM ( 1 year ago )
Hall County conviction, sentencing to be reviewed by SCOGA
The State Supreme Court has agreed to hear the appeal of a Hall County man when they reconvene in January.
2:37PM ( 1 year ago )
Maysville man dies from Banks County wreck
The Georgia State Patrol reports that alcohol and/or drugs were factors a single-vehicle wreck that claimed the life of a Maysville man in Banks County Tuesday night.
11:07AM ( 1 year ago )
Local/State News
GOP leader regrets talk to white supremacists; party leaders rally around him
House Republican leaders rallied around one of their own, Whip Steve Scalise, on Tuesday after he said he regrets speaking 12 years ago to a white supremacist organization and condemns the views of such groups.
6:08PM ( 1 year ago )
Conviction of Putin foe sets off protest in Moscow
President Vladimir Putin's chief political foe was convicted along with his brother on Tuesday in a fraud case widely seen as a vendetta by the Kremlin, triggering one of Russia's boldest anti-government demonstrations in years.
6:03PM ( 1 year ago )
More Georgians signing up for health insurance
A federal report says more Georgians have selected health insurance plans through a federally facilitated marketplace.
4:16PM ( 1 year ago )
Politics
Amid shouts of 'shame,' House GOP defeats gay rights measure
Democrats shouted "shame," but House Republicans switched their votes and defeated a measure to protect gay rights
8:03PM ( 1 week ago )
CDC director Freiden warns GOP Zika bill is inadequate
The head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Wednesday that a House GOP measure to combat the Zika virus is inadequate to deal with the swelling threat to public health
7:36PM ( 1 week ago )
Trump unveils list of his top picks for Supreme Court
Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee for president, released Wednesday a list of 11 potential Supreme Court justices he plans to vet to fill the seat of late Justice Antonin Scalia if he's elected to the White House.
3:31PM ( 1 week ago )
1st US penis transplant could bring hope to maimed soldiers
A 64-year-old cancer patient has received the nation's first penis transplant, a groundbreaking operation that may also help U.S. veterans maimed by roadside bombs
8:04PM ( 1 week ago )
States dig in against directive on transgender bathroom use
Politicians in Texas, Arkansas and elsewhere are vowing defiance over the Obama administration's new directive on transgender bathroom use
9:19PM ( 1 week ago )