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What is A Word to the Y’s?

Everyone agrees that the current crusade to expand health access to all Americans will succeed only if healthy young adults (Gen Y) participate in the health insurance Marketplace.  But it’s a hard sell for several reasons.  For one thing, many healthy young adults do not find the subject of health insurance that fascinating.  RINGsters are best situated to turn that situation around.  In A Word to the Ys, each RINGster will personally contact at least 3 recent friends or acquaintances they know  who recently graduated college and who are not insured.  They’ll pass along the message that health insurance is a smart purchase, even if you think you are invincible.  It’s also the law, so you might as well get used to it.  RINGsters will then help their friends locate a portal for enrollment.


Why is A Word to the Y’s important?

No person of good conscience can accept the lousy access to health services under which so many Georgians suffer.  In the past ten years, the rate of uninsured population in our state increased from 15.0 percent to 19.3 percent.  That’s the 43rd lowest rate in the US.   Is it a coincidence that Georgia ranks 44th worst among the states in infant mortality?  In 2007 about 1 in 6 Georgians said they put off seeing the doctor when they really needed to, just because they couldn’t afford it.


The health insurance Marketplace that the Affordable Care Act enables can help make health coverage available to about 800,000 Georgians who currently have no insurance at all, not even Medicare assistance.  (Plus, many of the 350,000 Georgians who now buy their own health insurance are likely to find a better deal in the Marketplace.)


Who are these Georgians who can for the first time afford health insurance in the Marketplace?  You know them.  Many are restaurant workers or musicians or construction workers or folks just starting their own businesses who are not poor enough to qualify for Medicare assistance but don’t have enough extra cash to buy their own health insurance.  But now they do.


For the health insurance Marketplace to work, it’s necessary for young healthy people to enroll.  You know how car insurance works, right?  If the only people who bought car insurance were the ones who rolled over and totaled their Lexuses every few months, the insurance companies would go belly up.  So it’s necessary for safe drivers to also buy car insurance, even if they hardly ever put in a claim.  Same thing for health insurance.   The law says that you must have car insurance and the law now says that you must have health insurance.


Besides, those friends you will be contacting in A Word to the Y’s may not know it, but they really need health insurance.  Sometimes when you don’t have a regular doctor, things get so bad that you have to visit an emergency room.  Did you know that the average emergency room visit costs more than an average month’s rent–$1319? Then what happens if you need some long-term and expensive treatment?  And some evidence shows that bill collectors are more aggressive in going after medical debt than other kinds of debts.  And what about the young woman who finds out she’s pregnant, but puts off prenatal care for the first few months because she doesn’t have the money to pay for doctor visits?  Do you know anyone who ever had to do that juggling act?


Best of all, most health insurance policies cover preventive care—including telephone consultations with nurses when you’re not sure if you really need to see a doctor.


So when you encourage your friends to enroll in health insurance, you’re doing them a favor, and you’re also helping to ensure a more equitable society.


How does A Word to the Y’s work?  What will RINGsters actually do?


  1. Choose your buddies to call
    1. Probably not already insured through college or job or military—recent graduate best
    2. Probably not insured on parent’s policy—eligible through age 26 thanks to Affordable Care Act
    3. Someone you do not owe money to

2. Contact via phone, social media, email—or all 3

3. Give your pitch

Here are some resources for ideas to use so you’re not just talking off the top of your head

  1. Young Invincibles http://health.younginvincibles.org/
  2. Consumers Union http://consumersunion.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/HealthCare2013_4.pdf
  3. “Why Should I Have Coverage?” video from healthcare.gov https://www.healthcare.gov/why-should-i-have-health-coverage/

D. MTV Obamacare Cheat Sheet http://act.mtv.com/posts/your-obamacare-cheat-sheet/

E. Let’s Ask 4

i. consumer guide http://iom.edu/~/media/Files/Activity%20Files/PublicHealth/HealthLiteracy/Background%20Documents/LetsAsk4ConsumerGuidehighres.pdf

ii. slide set http://iom.edu/~/media/Files/Activity%20Files/PublicHealth/HealthLiteracy/Background%20Documents/Q1%20-%20What%20are%20my%20choices.pdf

iii. video http://iom.edu/Activities/PublicHealth/HealthLiteracy/Lets%20Ask%204%20Video.aspx

4. After you’ve sold the idea of health insurance to your friend, explain where people can go to get more specific information and begin the enrollment process.  There are 4 portals:

  • Apply online. Visit HealthCare.gov to get started.
  • Apply by phone. Call 1-800-318-2596 to apply for a health insurance plan and enroll over the phone. (TTY: 1-855-889-4325)
  • Apply in person. Visit a trained counselor in your community to get information and apply in person. Find help in your area at LocalHelp.HealthCare.gov.
  • Apply by mail. Complete a paper application and mail it in.  You can download the paper application form and instructions from HealthCare.gov.

Before you choose a plan, you may want to explore your options.  You can use this calculator to see if you qualify for lower costs on coverage and preview Marketplace plans here.

5. What RINGsters can NOT do (since you are not a certified enrollment navigator or counselor:

  • You can NOT assist in enrollment in any way, shape or form.
  • You can NOT touch the computer keyboard if your friend is on HealthCare.Gov
  • You can NOT talk about the relative benefits of specific insurance company policies.
  • You CAN engage in outreach and education
  • You CAN help your friend know the right questions to ask
  • You CAN direct your friend to a certified application counsellor or navigator.  These people are authorized to assist with enrollment
  • You can NOT eat all the blue M&M’s.  You must share.


6. What are you waiting for?  Get started.


7. Follow-up and Feed-back

  • Give your friend a call back in a week or so and find out if she actually went through the enrollment process.  For some people it’s like jumping off the high diving board.  They might need a little push.
  • Report back to RING and let us know how many Y’s you’ve contacted and how it’s worked out.