The Other March Madness


My favorite team (I won’t tell you their name) has been sent home from the Big Dance and my brackets have been thrown in the trash. So I will turn my attention to the other type of “March Madness” going on right now.

March 31 is the deadline to either obtain insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act or to be subject to a fine. And the anxiety, apprehension and suspense leading up to this date are approaching levels we haven’t seen since that whole Y2K business at the close of 1999.

One of the big unknowns in the ACA initial signup is whether the final enrollment numbers will reach 6 million. In a late-day announcement yesterday, HHS announced it would give some extra enrollment time to those who already started the process.

As of last week, the enrollment number had hit the 5 million mark, leaving two weeks to get that last million signed up. As of the end of February, 13 states already hit their enrollment goals. Five states, meanwhile, experienced a disastrous ACA rollout and have a lot of catching up to do.

But it’s not just whether the enrollment numbers will be met. It’s whether the “right” kind of people will sign up for coverage. By that, I mean healthy young adults – the so-called “young invincibles.” In order for the ACA to be sustainable, enough healthy young adults need to enroll to offset the numbers of older and sicker adults who will seek coverage. So far, it looks like the baby boomer generation is winning this race. HHS statistics showed that as of Feb. 28, only about 25 percent of that coveted 18–34 age group had enrolled in coverage, as compared with 31 percent of the 55–64 age group. Hispanics also appear to be seriously lagging behind in obtaining coverage.

Meanwhile, in some communities, health insurance advisors, despite their early frustrations with the glitch-filled exchanges, are now finding themselves to be most popular folks in town.

The last-minute rush toward March 31 has led some to do whatever it takes to get the public’s attention. For example, in Colorado, an insurance company sponsored something called “Last Call,” in which models dressed as cocktail waitresses walked the streets, offering nonalcoholic shots of juice to lunch-hour crowds in Denver. The models, in form-fitting dresses and high heels, handed out fliers reminding people of the ACA deadline.

So what’s next? Will ACA enrollment hit the 6 million mark when midnight strikes on March 31? Will there be a last-minute “buzzer beater” that changes the game? Will those under-34s realize they are not as invincible as they think? We’ll keep you posted.





Susan Rupe is assistant editor for InsuranceNewsNet. She formerly served as communications director for an insurance agents' association and was an award-winning newspaper reporter and editor. Connect with Susan →

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