Affordable Care Act
7:02 pm
Mon March 24, 2014

Young People, Medicaid Concerns As Obamacare Deadline Looms

Credit opensource on Flickr

  With one week left to sign up for the Affordable Care Act, Illinois' enrollment numbers are on track to meet their goals. But, many newly covered Illinoisans aren't actually buying private insurance.

About 114,000 people in Illinois have bought insurance under Obamacare. But 200,000 more have been signed up for Medicaid, the state's healthcare program for the poor.

Although the number of Medicaid enrollees is larger than the pool of people who've bought insurance, officials say they're not worried.

Brian Gorman, with Get Covered Illinois, says the state on target to meet its goal of 143,000 people buying coverage off the exchange. He basically says the rest is just gravy.

"Some folks may be eligible for Medicaid," he said. "And other individuals may be eligible for marketplace with subsidies. We make no differentiation. Coverage is coverage."

Many of these enrollees are childless adults, who are newly eligible for Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

A number of Republicans in the General Assembly, however, worry that Medicaid has already gotten too big and want to roll it back. Though Medicaid is Illinois' largest single expense, the Federal government is paying for the initial expansion in full.

Another concern policywatchers have — on both sides of the aisle — is that not enough young, healthy people will sign up for coverage. These so-called "young invincibles" were thought of as a hard-to-reach group, but Gorman says he's found the answer in an online-focused marketing campaign.

He says recent partnerships with satirical media outlet The Onion and ads for the internet music player Pandora help reach young people where they are: on their smartphones and computers.

And from these online outreaches, Gorman says he's had to unlearn what he called a common misconception: that this demographic doesn't want health coverage.

"There is this belief that somehow young people don't either want insurance, they feel they don't need insurance," he said. "And what we have found (and we were operating under the assumption) is that that's really not the case. The barrier for young people 18-34 is not that they don't want coverage, it's that they couldn't afford it."

For those who sign up for healthcare on the exchange in the next week, their coverage will begin on May first. The next open enrollment period for Obamacare starts mid-November.