Obamacare’s Grassroots Marketing Plan Falls Flat

Obamacare’s marketing to young adults isn’t going
as well as hoped.
According to Buzzfeed
, the original, highly targeted campaign
to reach out to the young and healthy individuals who the White
House has said are critical to the law’s success has been largely

The original recruitment plan envisioned by Enroll America and
other White House allies was highly targeted: Using an army of
grassroots workers, the groups planned to knock on individual doors
to find the uninsured and educate them about their new health care

After relying on that method during the opening months of health
care enrollment, the effort has been largely scrapped, those
familiar with recruitment said, especially when it comes to young
people. It proved harder to find the volunteers supporters needed
for canvassing efforts than it did to find volunteers willing to
work at events, organizers said, and canvassing for young people
proved slower than expected. In its place now is a recruitment
drive focused on finding young people where they gather and handing
out information about the health care law.

The context here is that last summer, before the botched launch
of the exchanges, the White House was telling reporters that the
law’s success or failure hinged on the percentage of young adult
sign ups. “To the White House, the difference between success and
failure is straightforward: They need to entice a sufficient number
of young and healthy adults into the new insurance marketplaces
that open Oct. 1,” wrote The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein
and Sarah Kliff in
a lengthy report
on how the administration planned to convince
young people to buy insurance under the law. Persuading young,
healthy people to buy insurance, the pair wrote, was the “crux of
Obamacare’s challenge.”

That obviously hasn’t happened to the extent that the White
House was hoping. Before the exchanges went live, the
administration said it was looking for about seven million
enrollees in the exchanges, and needed about 39 percent of them to
be between the ages of 18 and 34. But the most recent data we have
indicates that, so far, that age cohort makes up more like 24-25
percent of the total.

The same Post report also describes the White House’s
belief that it will be able to use data-driven, campaign style
targeting to connect with uninsured young adults. The Buzzfeed
article suggests that those efforts haven’t really worked. The
administration and its allies are doing what they can to modify
their approach, but they’re also just redefining success, saying
that seven million sign ups was never really the goal and that
things will be just fine with a much lower percentage of young
adults than they’d targeted. Which was not only predictable but
predicted. “[The administration’s] job in 2013 is to
declare victory in any way possible,” Doug Holtz-Eakin, president
of the conservative American Action Forum, told the Post.
“They’ll keep moving goal posts until they can declare

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