Health Insurance is not a Laughing Matter…Or is it?

Much of the ACA enrollment outreach to young adult “invincibles” has been on the lighter side. Take, for example, the recent Valentine’s Day campaign around national youth enrollment day that featured various celebrities making quips about love and insurance (see the ad featuring Amy Poehler in our February post).  And, months back, we highlighted Colorado’s GotInsurance campaign, which markets health insurance to young adults using “bros,” yoga, and roller derby.

President Obama’s latest education effort has taken an especially comedic turn. The President was a guest on Zach Galifianakis’ Funny or Die web series, “Between Two Ferns,” which is known for its parody of low-budget interview shows and hilariously awkwardly interviews. The video has already gone viral and is trending on twitter. Besides being good for a laugh, the interview turns out to be a decent platform for marketing and the new insurance options under the ACA, particularly to young adults. Earlier this afternoon, White House Senior Communications Advisor Tara McGuinness tweeted that was the #1 source of referrals to

Whether because of the targeted outreach efforts or simply the increased affordability of insurance in the state and federal marketplaces, the rates of uninsured young adults are falling along with those of older adults. According to a recent Gallop poll, the uninsured rate for adults aged 26-34 – likely the primary audience for “Between Two Ferns” - dropped 1.6% points between the end of last year and the first two months of this year. The drop in uninsured was smaller – 0.5% – among 18-25 year-olds, but this group experienced a much more dramatic dip in its uninsurance rate a few years ago. The uninsured rate for these young adults dropped by over 4% in early 2011, when they became eligible to stay on a parent’s insurance plan until age 26. Still, the rates of uninsured young adults remain significantly higher than older populations. Targeted outreach is likely to pick up during these last few weeks of open enrollment.

In the meantime, we have President Obama going out on a limb to pitch the merits of health insurance – of which there are many! – with an unexpected partner in Galifianakis. President Obama’s plug starts at about the halfway point, and one of the best interchanges is at 4:15:

Pres. Obama: “The point is, a lot of young people, they think they’re invincible.”

Galifianakis: “Did you say invisible, because…”

Pres. Obama: “No, no – not invisible. Invincible. Meaning that they don’t think they can get hurt.”

Galifianakis: “I’m just saying that nobody could be invisible…if you had said invisible.”


Good point.




This Saturday is National Youth Enrollment Day, a day of action to educate young adults on the importance of having health insurance. Celebrities like Amy Poehler (above), are helping to get the word out and the Young Invincibles campaign is encouraging people to share the message to friends and networks. Young adults between 19 and 34 have disproportionately high uninsured rates – those 19-29 have the highest rate in the country, representing over a third of the uninsured population. They also tend to be healthier than older adults. (Which doesn’t mean they (we) don’t want and need health insurance!)

Because this group tends to be healthy, there has been a lot of talk about so-called “Young Invincibles” and the way enrollment rates among these young adults may impact the overall success of the Health Insurance Marketplaces. The logic goes that if more healthy, young adults enroll in Marketplace plans, this will subsidize the older and sicker population that enrolls. With too many sick enrollees, experts expect to see higher insurance rates. As of the end of December, about 1/4 of enrollees around the nation were young adults – 26% in New York. Some have questioned whether these numbers are high enough to protect the risk pools, while others have pointed out that many young adults are likely to wait until later in the enrollment period to sign up. There is also controversy about whether “young adults” should really be the focus – in fact, the Commonwealth Fund just released a new report on the subject, arguing that it is the health status of the insured pool, not age, that really makes the difference.

We do know that thousands of New Yorkers between 19 and 35 have already signed up and are benefiting from the new, more affordable options available to them. Take Tamika G., a 26-year-old from Brooklyn who will now pay $135/month for insurance that gives her peace of mind and access to the services she needs. Tamika was eligible for financial assistance in the form of tax credits and cost-saving reductions – these reduced her monthly premium and lowered her other out-of-pocket costs. For many young adults who have struggled to afford insurance in the past, this financial assistance will make the dream of being covered a reality.

Now that she’s insured, Tamika is ready to share the love:

“I’m going to tell my friends as soon as I get home that this is the way to go.  You don’t want to break your arm and worry about how you’re going to pay for it.”

Out of all of the attention on young adult enrollment, this is the message that should stand out:  Health insurance is for all of us, young adults included. Now that we have our chance to finally have the affordable, quality coverage we deserve, let’s take it – and make sure our friends do, too.

14060_lores_womanchild HCFANY’s Children, Youth, and Families Task Force gathered in Albany on Wednesday, December 11th to share updates about several key issues. Over 30 task force members were there, from consumer advocacy organizations, Navigator networks, and other organizations dedicated to the health of children and families. Here’s a rundown of the meeting highlights:

Judy Arnold from the New York State Department of Health spoke for nearly an hour, sharing numerous updates and answering questions about the New York State of Health marketplace. She is truly a fount of information! She let us know that over 100,000 have enrolled through the marketplace since October, including about 30,000 in Medicaid (Medicaid numbers are still being finalized). Soon, the State will be able to provide data on demographics of enrollees, which will be especially exciting to anyone in the health care advocacy world. With the rush to enroll before the December deadline, the State’s help line has been experiencing extremely high call volume – about 1,500 calls per hour – so the State is working on some changes to meet the demand (that’s a lot of New Yorkers seeking affordable health insurance!).

Lara Kassel from Medicaid Matters New York (MMNY) gave an update on the joint MMNY and HCFANY Public Programs Work Group. The group recently met with representatives from the New York State of Health to discuss priority issues, from making sure undocumented immigrants are able to enroll in emergency Medicaid through the marketplace website to ensuring continuing education and training for Navigators.

Bridget Walsh from the Schuyler Center for Analysis and Advocacy gave an update on the “foster kids” provision in the ACA. The provision allows young adults who were formerly in foster care to stay on Medicaid up to age 26 (mirroring the provision allowing young adults to stay on their parent’s insurance). We got a sneak peak of a video made by a former foster youth that SCAA will soon post on their website, where you can already find great resources about this issue.

Kate Breslin, also from SCAA, gave a brief update on the Basic Health Program option in New York State. HCFANY recently submitted a letter on behalf of over 50 organizations around the state urging Governor Cuomo to include a Basic Health Program in his 2014 budget. You can read the final letter here.

Lorraine Gonzalez from Children’s Defense Fund – New York talked about School-Based Health Centers (SBHCs) and explored the financial sustainability of these important community resources in light of Medicaid redesign – which changes the reimbursement process for SBHCs – and new funding opportunities for SBHCs in the ACA. CDF’s full report with recommendations on this issue is set to be released in January.

Our next chance to convene is right around the corner! We’ll have a Children, Youth, & Families Task Force breakout session at the HCFANY annual meeting on January 9th in Albany. Register here for the meeting, and we’ll see you there!

June 20, 2013 Press Briefing

From left: David Sandman - New York State Health Foundation, Mark Hannay – Metro NY Health Care For All Campaign, Kellan Baker – Center for American Progress, and Lois Uttley – Raising Women’s Voices.

 HCFANY launched a new campaign today to provide outreach and education to uninsured LGBT New Yorkers around the new health options that will soon be available via the New York State Health Benefit Exchange.  While health statistics on LGBT populations are not yet widely collected (something we are pushing to change) experts estimate that 1 in 4 LGBT people in the state are uninsured.

The outreach campaign will be headed up by HCFANY’s LGBT Task Force to help prepare people for the health insurance choices they may need to make once enrollment on the Exchange opens on October 1st.

The campaign was kicked off by a press briefing hosted by the New York State Health Foundation to bring attention to the unique needs of LGBT New Yorkers, illustrate how the Affordable Care Act is working to address them, and to lay out next steps.

Speakers included:

  • Kellan Baker, Director, LGBT State Exchanges Project, Center for American Progress
  • Megan Fisk, Director of Family Services, LGBT Community Services Center of New York
  • Mark Hannay, Director, Metro New York Health Care For All Campaign
  • Jonathan Lang, Director of Governmental Projects and Community
    Development, Empire State Pride Agenda
  • Jay Laudato, Executive Director, Callen-Lorde Community Health Center
  • David Sandman, Senior Vice President, New York State Health Foundation
  • Lois Uttley, Director, Raising Women’s Voices for the Health Care We Need

The new coverage options afforded by the ACA will benefit LGBT communities by providing wider access to affordable health care, increased data collection (which will work to inform future policy decisions), and a new ban on discrimination based on HIV status and sex, including gender identity.

The LGBT Task Force has been working with state Exchange officials to make sure that same-sex couples have the same opportunities for affordable health coverage.  This includes allowing couples to pool their premium subsidies together to purchase family health plans on the Exchange.

Outreach will start at the June 30 PrideFest in Manhattan, and continue through the summer and fall.

Click here to read a copy of HCFANY’s press release from today.