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HHS Aims to Attract Young Adults with Mobile Improvements

By Erin Mershon, CQ Roll Call

September 27, 2016 -- Health and Human Services Sylvia Mathews Burwell found her inner millennial for a Tuesday event on the administration's efforts to attract young, healthy people to the exchanges.

She dropped references to the mobile phone game Pokemon Go and talked up the agency's newly minted hashtag, #HealthyAdulting. Her showstopper: a name-dropping of the celebrities Tom Hiddleston and Taylor Swift, as well as the popular new Netflix series Stranger Things.

Referring to "those kids from Stranger Things or HiddleSwift," she said, "I should emphasize that it is important stay covered whether you're starting a new celebrity couple or planning a trip to the upside down."

Burwell's hip references came as HHS announced a new campaign aimed at targeting the so-called Young Invincibles—healthy young adults who still make up a huge chunk of the remaining uninsured—and whose modest spending on medical care could help shore up the struggling health insurance exchanges set up under the health law.

Insurance companies and administration officials see signing up more young people as a chief priority that could restrain health costs in the exchanges, which would improve the financial outlook for participating insurers and potentially keep premiums lower. Affordability remains a major challenge for the plans sold on the exchanges.

The administration's new campaign will partner with the online gaming website Twitch, which attracts about 10 million daily users. The site will feature videos and home page ads, and Burwell suggested other such partnerships are also in the works.

HHS also is working to improve the mobile experience and will roll out a new way to compare plans on phones and tablets. There will be "no more clicking on tiny boxes or zooming in on tiny text," Burwell said.

Burwell said the agency would continue to make announcements about the coming open enrollment period, which begins Nov. 1, throughout the fall.

Education Secretary John King also announced a challenge for college campuses that would reward those who joined the effort to insure students and explain the options available to young people. The agency is holding a contest for a trip to the White House for the team of people at one of the colleges that participates.

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