Obamacare Late Sign-Ups May Signal Young, Healthy Buying Plans

INN Breaking News, April 3, 2014

Alex Wayne and Shannon Pettypiece

“We saw a huge uptick in interest in the last couple of days,” he said. “For the small part of this we did help influence, it did seem it was younger folks and communities of color.”

Matt Saniie, director of data and analytics with the group, said the “vast majority” of the people it contacted had no insurance before enrolling. Another key unanswered question about the law is whether it has yet put a dent in the nation’s estimated population of 48 million uninsured.

In Alabama, Daniel Liss, the co-founder of Bama Covered, which coordinated student volunteers to promote enrollment, said that while initial applicants in his state leaned female, more men and young people came in late.

“You definitely had a younger demographic in the last week or two,” he said in a phone interview. “I was in Mobile last week and all of the employees of this one bar came in together, because the cook had gotten a plan for twenty bucks.”

Encouraging Enrollment

There was a similar dynamic in Mississippi, said Roy Mitchell, executive director of the Mississippi Health Advocacy Program in Jackson. A combination of word-of-mouth and a television advertisement featuring an injured and previously uninsurable roofer, he said, began to draw men.

“We were seeing a lot of males come in during those final weeks, who were walking out and grinning and as happy as could be, because of the subsidies and how low the premiums were,” he said in a phone interview. “Some had never had insurance before.”

In Forth Worth, Texas, volunteers at the United Way of Tarrant County saw more Hispanics coming in as the deadline neared, said Tim McKinney, the organization’s president. The number of people seeking help enrolling got so heavy in the final weeks the group had to stop allowing walk-ins and required everyone to make an appointment, he said.

Unlike other organizations, though, McKinney said the United Way hasn’t seen a shift toward younger enrollees. Most of those signing up in the final days have been over 45, he said.

Holtz-Eakin, of the American Action Forum, said the Obama administration’s attempts to target younger customers, with promotions such as the president’s appearance on the Zach Galifianakis show “Between Two Ferns,” may have succeeded. Even so, much is uncertain, he said.

“What we know is: 7 million,” he said. 

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