Corporate Responsibility

Voting with Your Dollars: 3 Strategies for Getting Millennials to Buy Into ObamaCare

When Barack Obama was elected President in 2008 (and re-elected in 2012), it was largely because of the efforts of Millennials, the generation of people who are approximately 18-34 years old.  The impact of youth on these elections is well-known, but did you know that the President needs Millennials just as much now to ensure the success of his healthcare reform initiative?  This time, he’s asking that Millennials vote with their DOLLARS instead of casting an election ballot.

The Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as “ObamaCare,” expands access to healthcare to all people through a variety of initiatives.  One of them is to offer more affordable and accessible health insurance through online exchanges, which officially opened for business on October 1, 2013.  As an incentive to participate, ObamaCare has established a “shared responsibility requirement” (aka a $95+ fine that will increase to $695+ in 2016) for anyone who does not obtain some form of health insurance.  Now, here’s where the more than 19 million uninsured Millennials come in.  According to, “Insuring young, healthy people helps balance out the risk of covering older, sicker adults.  But if America’s 20- and 30-somethings don’t sign up, the fear is that premiums could spiral out of control.”  If that happens, we’re essentially right back where we started.

The impact of Millennials on the success of ObamaCare really struck me, not only because I am a Millennial, but because PadillaCRT’s Debbie Myers and I have spoken extensively on the topic of communicating with Millennials.  I thought, “Is there anything in our learnings that would help connect with Millennials and encourage them to get insured?”  Below are three strategies to support Millennial enrollment in health exchanges, based upon our research:

  • Create a movement:
    • Millennials are an idealistic group that believes in working together to make the world a better place.  After all, they’ve been working in groups since they were little.
    • Clearly, the Obama administration is savvy about getting Millennials to rally around a cause and has taken steps that include encouraging celebrities such as Lady Gaga to tweet with the hashtag #getcovered.  While this is an effective tactic for capturing Millennials’ attention, it may not be enough of a reason to get them to actually take action.  Why?  Because the message behind #getcovered is individually-focused.
    • How do you create a movement that Millennials can get behind?  Link their action to making a difference.  Not unlike TOMS shoes, Millennials are able to impact society by signing up for a health exchange.  Their purchase helps makes health insurance more accessible for people in need by ensuring that premiums remain affordable and the program intact.
  • Educate and engage:
    • When it comes to health reform, there is clearly a great deal of confusion, as evidenced by some “man on the street” interviews conducted by “Jimmy Kimmel Live!”  In fact, only 27% of 19-29 year olds are even aware of the health exchanges.
    • Millennials are smart and eager to learn, but they have short attention spans.  Use mediums that are a quick read, such as infographics, to simplify the case for purchasing healthcare through the online marketplace.
    • Unlike Baby Boomers and Gen Xers, many Millennials care deeply about what their parents think.  Provide parents with tools so that they can talk to their children and help them make the right decision.
    • Avoid scare tactics.  It’s natural to try to tie the need for health insurance to the fact that none of us are invincible, but research shows that scare tactics do not resonate with young people.
  • Make it social:
    • Millennials are highly social and desire connecting with others.  Even beyond that, they care about peer affirmation.  Organizations such as the Young Invincibles are providing tools to help Millennials engage with their peers online, such as sample social media posts.  Building upon these efforts, the campaign could focus more on the cause-related aspect of purchasing insurance from the online exchanges.
    • While Millennials appreciate technology, they also seek out face-to-face interaction.  Make it fun and easy to get enrolled by creating events at places that Millennials’ already frequent and consider partnering with brands that they respect.  An added benefit is that there is an opportunity for them to get their questions answered in real-time.

In order to be successful, the administration is hoping to enroll approximately 2.7 million (or less than 15%) of uninsured Millennials in health exchanges.  With the right strategy, it’s possible to get Millennials to embrace access and coverage for themselves – and their neighbors.

About Kim Blake:

As a director in Padilla's D.C. office, Kim has more than 15 years experience in health care marketing communications, with a focus on strategy, managing critical issues, and branding. She has been a speaker at the Public Relations Society of America International Conference, Society for Healthcare Strategy and Market Development Annual Conference, and Healthcare Businesswomen's Association Annual Conference.

8 Comments on “Voting with Your Dollars: 3 Strategies for Getting Millennials to Buy Into ObamaCare

  1.  by  Alexsis

    Another part of the administration’s strategy – mobilizing the base! Thousands of Americans organized and volunteered to elect and re-elect President Obama. Those are the same folks you’ll see out on the front lines encouraging Millenials and others to take advantage of the new healthcare exchange.

    (Hint: I might be one of those people.)

    Here’s a Richmond news clip: Volunteers Spread Word on Affordable Care Act.

  2.  by  Kim Blake

    Thanks for your comment, Alexsis! Yes, mobilizing the base is definitely key in creating a movement. I’m curious – what messages do you find are resonating (getting people to volunteer and getting people to sign up)? Any feedback about why people are planning to opt out of the exchanges?

  3.  by  Alexsis

    Getting volunteer commitments centers around friends asking friends to join them in telling folks about the benefits of the new healthcare law. Advocates for the law are eager to spread the word about open enrollment, especially in light of all the mixed messages from media, community leaders, etc. It’s really just a matter of letting them know that they have the opportunity to help inform their friends and neighbors.

    When we’re talking to people on the street about the marketplace, it’s important to keep it simple. Each person’s situation is unique, and getting into the weeds is not only unfeasible, but also ineffective. The key message is – Healthcare is stronger and more affordable now. Go online to find out which plan works best for you. If the person is interested, it’s also effective to tell a personal story to make ACA come alive. A good friend of mine has Addison’s disease and with her husband unemployed, finding an affordable insurance plan would have been near impossible if it weren’t for ACA. Choosing between buying medicine and taking care of your family, is a decision no mother should have to make.

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  5.  by  Jeff

    You fail to justify why millenials should buy into the ACA. Many of them previously had no health care because it’s not always a necessary choice for their age group. Our government is compelling them to purchase an expensive service they do not necessarily need – I fail to see why we should push it on them.

  6.  by  Alexsis

    Jeff, you’re right. I think the “why” should be better communicated. I think the “Invincible” mindset is engrained on my age group’s mind. “Nothing bad will happen to me.” “I’ll pay for medical services as I need them.”

    It seems to me though that health care isn’t like a warranty when you should debate whether or not it’s really needed. Everyone should have health care, and because of that it should be affordable. Having healthy young folks in the system “paying it forward” so to speak, helps achieve that affordability.

    Comparatively, nobody ever convinced me about buying car insurance. It’s just the law, and if you don’t comply you have to pay a fee. That’s being forced on all car owners whether or not you ever need to cash in.

  7.  by  Kim Blake

    Thanks for your comment, Jeff! You make a good point. It’s certainly a tough sell to Millennials. I didn’t dive into the “why” because that’s an entirely different blog post. 🙂 However, I wanted to explore what strategies might be effective, given the fact that the Adminstration needs Millennial participation in order to successfully implement the ACA.

  8.  by  Rani Whitfield

    Great post and awesome strategies to get millineals engaged! I’m a 44 year old old physician who uses music and medicine to educate youth/young adults on health issues. yoday (11/5/13) I’ll be hosting a twitter cchat on the Affordable Care Act with a group of Millenials from Washington DC called #TEAMIMPACT. I’ll be sure to share this with them. Thanks for a great post,

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