Five days before the first major Obamacare enrollment deadline, it's an all-out battle to attract the young and healthy.
Today Organizing for Action, President Obama's independent advocacy group, launched a social media blitz urging uninsured millennials to "have the talk" about health care.
- Barack Obama (@BarackObama) December 17, 2013
An image graphic - featuring a young man wearing flannel, checkered pajamas - circulated widely on Twitter and Facebook with the slogan, "Wear pajamas. Drink hot chocolate. Talk about getting health insurance."
It was also parodied by critics of Obamacare.
- Matt (@Matthops82) December 18, 2013
Video ad campaigns across the country are also underway: Paul Bunyan on water skis makes the pitch in Minnesota; in Oregon, a guitar-strumming hipster sells Obamacare with a catchy tune; frat boys doing keg stands try to capture attention in Colorado; and then, a dancing Obama impersonator spoofs Snoop to tell kids, Sign up 'cause it's hot."
"Seventy percent of people who saw our ad talked to somebody in the last month," said Richard Onizuka, director of the Washington Health Benefit Exchange, which has also been trying to drum up awareness among young people with catchy insurance marketing.
Insurance companies say they are joining the effort with a major media push through the end of the year. WellPoint reportedly plans to spend $100 million in the next two weeks on an ad campaign to woo the young.
Meanwhile, anti-Obamacare crusaders are trying to get some young people to resist. One group, funded by the conservative Koch Brothers, launched this creepy video with Uncle Sam taking over a woman's medical exam. It has over two million views.
Health industry experts say the stakes are high: If fewer than 40 percent of all enrollees for 2014 are young adults ages 18-34, then future premiums could skyrocket.
So far, states have a long way to go to hit that target.
Of the nine states that have released demographic data on their enrollees, none have reached the magic mark of 40 percent. In California, for example, only 22 percent of sign-ups have been young adults. Kentucky says 20 percent of its sign-ups are 18-34, while Colorado has reported just 17 percent. The White House has declined to release age data for sign-ups at HealthCare.gov.
How much higher could premiums go?
If young adults make up just 25 percent of sign-ups in a given state, for example, insurers would have to raise premiums by at least 2.4 percent next year, according to projections by the Kaiser Family Foundation. That would mean a family of four making more than $94,200 a year would see premiums rise $223. A 27-year-old making $25,000 would see a $42-a-year increase.
Industry and administration officials stress that it is still early in the process, and that young people still have more than three months to sign up. They also say the expectation has always been that young, healthy people will enroll late in the process, as was the case in Massachusetts.
"We are all still in the first inning of a nine-inning game," said Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California.
The enrollment period closes on March 31, 2014.