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HealthCare Checkup

The Seattle Times health-care team tracks the local impact of the Affordable Care Act.

September 10, 2013 at 1:31 PM

Kids: Mind your mother, buy health insurance

Photo by Emily Walton Jones, from Flickrs' The Commons.

Photo by Emily Walton Jones, from Flickrs’ The Commons.

Mom’s the one who can get you to tuck in your shirt, fasten your seatbelt and call Granny to wish her a happy birthday. But can she get her grown-up kids to buy medical insurance?

Health-care officials hope so.

As the launch date for the overhaul of U.S. health coverage approaches, state and federal leaders are counting on the persuasive power of moms to boost the number of healthy young people enrolled in insurance plans. Physically robust youths get sick, but they typically need less expensive, less frequent medical attention than other age groups. That means the premiums paid by young adults can help offset insurance companies’ costs for sicker, older subscribers.

Given their vigor, 19- to 25-year-olds historically have shunned insurance payments and are the least-covered demographic nationally. Approximately 28 percent of this population lacks health insurance, according to the U.S. Census. In Washington, more than 29 percent of this group was uninsured in 2011.

Enter mom as the potential fix.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has been working the mom angle on multiple fronts. In June, Sebelius – herself a mother of two grown sons – discussed with reporters strategies for convincing young people to sign up for health insurance.

“We know that for instance – and I take this very personally – that moms can be influential with that demographic group,” said Sebelius, as quoted in Politico. The Obama administration has reportedly set the goal of enrolling 2.7 million healthy people ages 18 to 35 in insurance programs.

In Chicago in July, speaking at the woman-focused BlogHer conference, Sebelius again made her pitch that women will play a key role in expanding insurance rolls.

“One of the most trusted voices is mothers,” she said, according to The Associated Press. “We’re trying to get a lot of information into women’s hands because women often purchase the health care for their family.”

Washington state leaders have picked up the mantra. At a recent healthcare summit in Seattle, Michael Marchand, communications director with the state’s Health Benefit Exchange, rattled off slogans for getting residents enrolled. They included messages of affordability, gaining health and financial security, that you won’t go bankrupt if you get sick, and because “mom says so.”

Comments | Topics: Affordable Care Act, Health Benefit Exchange, Kathleen Sibelius


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