Affordable Care Act: informing young Arizonans about healthcare options

A screenshot of healthcare.gov where people can buy health plans from the Affordable Care Act.
A screenshot of healthcare.gov where people can buy health plans from the Affordable Care Act.

About 43 percent of young Americans are still without health insurance, two years after the launch of the Affordable Care Act.

As the second enrollment period gets underway, some advocates in Arizona are hoping to change that.

They’ve launched seminars and presentations on Arizona’s college campuses and a social media campaign to encourage people from 18 to 34 to sign up for the insurance. They also are reaching out to college-age young adults to let them know that they can remain on their parent’s health insurance until they reach age 26

Arizona Public Interest Research Group went to Pima Community College recently to speak with students and educate them about the ACA.

“The Arizona PIRG Education Fund is helping young adults and other Arizonans know their health insurance options and rights,” says Dianne Brown, its executive director

Last enrollment period 8 million Americans signed up for insurance on the Affordable Care Act website.  Of those, only 28 percent were between the ages of 18 to 34 nationally.

In Arizona more than 120,000 residents signed up for the ACA during the last period. The uninsured rate dropped by 4 percent in the first year of the marketplace but only 17 percent of the people enrolled were 18- to 34-year-olds.

Arizona PIRG has teamed up with other organizations to get the word out through email, social media, presentations, and with face-to-face talks with people around the state.  Cover Arizona, a coalition of over 600 organizations helping insure Arizonans, also has conducted events around the state; one is planned next month at El Dorado Health Campus in Tucson.

Brown said a lot of young adults don’t know that they can stay on their parents’ insurance plan until they are 26 years of age. Also if they make $16,000 or less they could qualify for Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS), the state Medicaid system.

Another option for college students is to get insured through their schools.

“The majority of [students] are under still under their parents insurance. We do offer major medical insurance to students,” says Cheryl Mossman, a spokesman at Northern Arizona University Campus Health Services.

Major Medical Insurance Plan is group health insurance offered at all three Arizona universities. With this plan a student would only pay a $10 co-pay for an office visit.

PIRG and others say one of the biggest contributors to the disinformation and confusion about the ACA is political rhetoric.

“Many young adults are turned off by rhetoric, partisan politics, and complicated explanations of health insurance,” says Brown.

The Affordable Care Act also has been a hot button issue with strong opinions on both sides.

“It was structured poorly to where it didn’t keep promises and hurt more people than it helped,” says Bethany Thompson, a 22-year-old senior studying natural resources at the University of Arizona. Thompson is currently under her mother’s health insurance plan.

Not having health insurance comes with a penalty, starting in January an uninsured person would have to pay $325 for adults and $162.50 per child with a maximum of $975 per household.

Individuals earning less than $47,000 may be eligible for financial assistance to purchase a plan through the marketplace. According to Cover Arizona, 80 percent of Arizonans purchasing an ACA plan received some financial help.

Enrollment will be open until Feb. 15 and you can sign up at healthcare.gov

Brian Valencia is a reporter at Arizona Sonora News, a service from the School of Journalism at the University of Arizona. Reach him at bvalencia@email.arizona.edu

 

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