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Deadline approaching, Obama administration takes creative approach to push ACA enrollment

March 11, 2014 at 6:22 PM EST
The Obama administration is getting creative in an intense push to accelerate enrollment in health care, especially among younger adults and Latinos, who trail almost every other demographic group in signing up. Judy Woodruff talks to Politico's Joanne Kenen and Larry Levitt of the Kaiser Family Foundation about the “hard sell” ahead of the March 31 deadline.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: For some further insight into the selling of the exchanges, and how it may impact the insurance pool, we turn to two people who are watching this closely.

Joanne Kenen is the health care editor at Politico. And Larry Levitt is a senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation.

We welcome you both.

Larry Levitt, give us a description of the people who have signed up for these exchanges so far in terms of, are they women, men, age, income level, and so forth?

LARRY LEVITT, Kaiser Family Foundation: Well, as your piece mentioned, a total of 4.2 million people have signed up for health insurance so far.

They are mostly women, slightly more likely to be women, mostly low-income. About 80 percent of them qualify for tax credits that are available to low- and middle-income people to help them pay — help them pay their premiums. And they’re disproportionally older.

Young people, those 18 to 34, represent about 14 percent of the target population, but only about a quarter of them have enrolled so far.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, who haven’t been signing up? You mentioned the young. And why haven’t these other groups been signing up?

LARRY LEVITT: Well, young people aren’t signing up.

Insurance is a tough sell for young people to begin with. And, as your piece mentioned, they do pay higher premiums than they tend to use in health care. So it’s not as good a deal for them as it is for older people. And enrollment among Latinos a lagging as well. Out here in California, they represent about half of the eligible uninsured, but only about one in five of enrollees. So it’s been a tough sell for the Latino market.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Joanne Kenen, is there a sense — does the administration know why these other groups aren’t signing up?

JOANNE KENEN, Politico: They have always known that young people were going to be a hard sell. They have known that from the beginning.

But Latinos, I think Obama really talked very specifically to address one of the fears, because these benefits are only available to legal — people who are here legally. They’re not available to the illegals. But if you have a relative who’s undocumented, some people feel that there is a perception that if you give your information to the government, they may use that to find family members.

And the president on that Latino town hall last week was very explicit: This is about health care. We’re not using it to track down illegals.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, if they knew they were going to have a problem with younger people, the sense is that they’re just now really working hard to get them to sign up. Why didn’t they start sooner? Or we just didn’t see it?

JOANNE KENEN: Well, I think — I think they have been reaching out to the young people. I mean, obviously, you’re going to have the most intense push in this last month. We’re in the last three weeks. You are going to see an intense push.

And you saw an intense push right around the end of December, when the Web site was working and there was that first set of deadlines. I mean, it’s — but they haven’t gotten a lot of their message across. People are very, very confused about this law. And young people are hearing mixed messages. Right?

You’re hearing the administration message. You’re also hearing the critics of the law, who say it’s too expensive, it’s big government, on and on. It’s very hard for people. And young people tend to not think — you know, it’s — that’s why they keep addressing the moms, right?

You know, I have a young, invincible kid. He doesn’t worry about getting appendicitis. I’m up half the night worrying about it. Yes, he’s insured. He’s on my plan. But that’s why this messaging to moms has been going on. They want the mom to get the kid to sign up.