Health insurance mandate may fall on deaf, young ears

Despite a full-court media blitz, plenty of people targeted by Congress in the Affordable Care Act have no clue what's coming their way.

The disconnect was underscored Tuesday during a presentation by insurance professionals for nonprofit organizations at the Smullin Center in Medford.

While thousands of Rogue Valley residents who have lost insurance or were never able to get it will become eligible on Jan. 1, 2014, many of them won't bother to apply.

"We're going to see more uninsured than we have today," predicted Les Cracraft, an employee benefits consultant with United Risk Solutions and former regional sales and marketing director for Regence BlueCross of Oregon.

One aim of the Affordable Care Act is to bring America's young, healthy millennials into the system, but so far they haven't got the memo.

"One of the great assumptions of the Affordable Care Act was the millennials — those 19 to 30 — would participate in purchasing insurance. ... They don't read a newspaper, they don't listen to the radio, they don't watch TV. If we don't catch them on YouTube or wherever to tell them about this — we need to get them in the pool," Cracraft said.

Cover Oregon, the state agency charged with creating Oregon's health care exchange, has spent $1.8 million on advertising, but the billboards, TV spots and radio ads haven't been effective at reaching young people. And the penalties for not joining the system — $95 in 2014 and $325 in 2015 — won't be enough to entice that group into the system, Cracraft said.

What will happen, Cracraft suggested, is older and sicker people will be the most likely to sign up, while younger, healthier people will sit on the sidelines, at least initially.

"There is a pent-up demand for people who qualify for the Oregon Health Plan, a pent-up demand for people very ill today," he said.

Although the 100 or so attendees at the Rogue Valley Nonprofit Network program peppered Cracraft and broker Larry Boeck of Boeck & Associates with questions, it was apparent many of the real answers won't be known until at least mid-October.

Even then, the dynamics of health care reform in Oregon won't be fully fleshed out.

"This is changing so rapidly," Cracraft said. "I have no doubt that Cover Oregon will be leading the rest of the nation; but there (will be) some hiccups along the way."

On Tuesday, he said, Cover Oregon announced that individuals won't be able to buy insurance on its website without a state-designated navigator or insurance broker until Oct. 15. That's two weeks later than the target date of Oct. 1.

In the interim, he said, employers and individuals all need to learn about the seismic shift that is occurring.

"Tell everybody about it. I'm serious," Cracraft said. "Have a conversation, tell the young people, tell the people not covered today. We don't have the secret sauce, we just know a lot of the moving parts coming about.

"We believe the word has to get out about health care reform as best we can," Cracraft said. "If you have an employer-sponsored group ... talk to your CEO or CFO, whomever works with your agents and begin doing the analysis: No. 1, would we be eligible for a tax credit or, No. 2, should we continue with our health plan."

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or Follow him on Twitter @GregMTBusiness.

Share This Story