Thanks to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), 20 million more Americans have gained coverage, and the nation’s uninsured rate now stands at its lowest level ever. At the same time, we have seen the slowest growth in the price of health care in 50 years. Access to affordable, quality health care is critically important for young people as they reach adulthood and enter the job market. It gives them peace of mind that allows them to focus on their studies, helps them stay healthy as they join the workforce, and is vital to building a strong economy and a strong middle class. Since the ACA was enacted, over 6 million young adults have gained coverage.
As the President’s Chief of Staff, I have spent a lot of time working on health care, and especially on reaching out to young folks. During past open enrollment periods, I dedicated many hours to calling into sports radio shows in the hopes of connecting with young men, who all too often have something of an invincibility complex and don’t get covered. I know something about that because I felt the same way when I played football at St. John’s University.
While we’ve made tremendous strides, we have more work to do, given that the remaining uninsured are disproportionately young. And we know, anecdotally and through research, that the perceived lack of affordability may hinder them from buying health insurance. Millennials may not realize they can probably get a Marketplace plan for $75 a month or less – cheaper than their cell phone bill.
Open Enrollment for the Health Insurance Marketplace is just five weeks away, starting on November 1 and running through January 31. Ahead of that, today at our first-ever Affordable Care Act Millennial Outreach and Enrollment Summit, we are excited to launch the White House Healthy Campus Challenge.
A joint effort between the White House, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Department of Education, the Challenge will engage college and university campuses in enrollment efforts nationwide. We will work with administrators, students, faculty, staff, alumni, and local community leaders and elected officials to reach the uninsured both on campus and in the surrounding community, sharing best practices with them that have worked during prior open enrollment periods.
This Challenge asks campus organizations to commit to by November 1 and act on by December 15 a set of enrollment best practices, such as hosting open-enrollment activities on campus and sending reminder emails to students and others around deadlines. And if campuses do so, they will be recognized by the President as a Healthy Campus and will be entered into a lottery for a chance to attend Healthy Campus Day at the White House in January in our final push towards the January 31st open enrollment deadline.
While we will work with all types of colleges and universities, we will focus our attention on community colleges, since community college students may not be able to get covered through their college or may not have access to coverage through parents’ plan.
More broadly, the Healthy Campus Challenge is a natural fit with the work President Obama and this Administration has done to expand access to educational opportunities for young adults, including by championing free community college. After all, access to a high-quality education and affordable health care are the foundation of the path to the middle class. So we are hopeful that this Challenge will succeed in empowering campuses across the country to enroll young Americans not just for the semesters ahead, but for years to come.
Today, no millennial has to learn the hard way what can happen without health insurance. Millennials have boundless opportunities before them. They’re more educated and more diverse than any other generation. They’re technologically savvy and highly innovative. And thanks to the ACA, they have better health insurance options than their parents did when they were young – options that are accessible, affordable, and high quality.