Obama Administration Announces Youth Obamacare Video Contest

Law actually discourages young people to sign up, experts say
A screenshot of the Department of Health and Human Services promotional video / Youtube

A screenshot of the Department of Health and Human Services promotional video / Youtube

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The Obama administration is co-sponsoring a video contest aimed at convincing young people to sign up for health insurance, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced on Monday.

The contest offers thousands of dollars in cash prizes to the winners, along with a “Stay Healthy Kit” to the first 100 participants. The kit contains a first aid kit, sun-protection kit, t-shirt, and water bottle.

HHS partnered with Young Invincibles, a health care advocacy group, to run the contest. It is unclear who is funding the contest. The prize kit is “Brought to you by CMS Marketplace & Young Invincibles,” according to the website. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is the federal agency in charge of the insurance exchanges.

Neither Young Invincibles nor HHS returned inquiries about the source of funding for the contest.

HHS released a promotional video on Monday, as well. The video features images of a man falling off of a skateboard with the text “you are NOT invincible” below him and a clip of a person strumming a guitar, with a dubstep track in the background.

“Soon the Health Insurance Marketplace will give uninsured young people the opportunity to enroll in affordable health insurance, and the Healthy Young America video contest will help them tell their stories to other young people,” HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in the statement.

Participants have three options for the kind of video they can make: a video showing how they could need health insurance; a song; or a digital animation.

The insurance exchanges will open for enrollment on Oct. 1. The public will be able to vote on the best videos between Oct. 1 and Oct. 15.

The goal of the exchanges is to make insurance more affordable, but the structure of the exchanges actually works against that goal, experts say.

Two aspects of the law actually increase the cost of health insurance for young people, said Ed Haislmaier, a health policy expert at the Heritage Foundation.

First, insurance companies can only charge older people three times what they would charge younger people for the same plan. This rule compresses the typical spread of prices, causing the price of insurance for younger and healthier individuals to rise in order to subsidize the artificially low price for older people, Haislmaier said.

Second, all insurance plans have certain requirements for what they must cover and how they are structured, further driving up costs for younger people, he noted.

Failing to attract enough young people could hurt the viability of the insurance plans offered in the exchanges, said Sally Pipes, president of the Pacific Research Institute.

“It’s going to kill insurance companies,” she said.

Millions of young people could save more than a thousand dollars next year by not signing up for insurance and paying the penalty, according to a study released last week by the National Center for Public Policy Research.