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Cash prizes for signing up for Obamacare?

Music and money are being used to reach young people in the final Affordable Care Act enrollment push.

By Money Staff Mar 14, 2014 12:24PM

This post comes from Jonnelle Marte at partner site MarketWatch.

With roughly two weeks left in the open enrollment period for health insurance, some groups are trying to sell Obamacare to young people in terms they might actually understand: music, comedy, and cash.

Pills with computer © Tom Grill, Getty ImagesYoung Invincibles, a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C. that is focused on the economic issues affecting young adults, launched a sweepstakes last week where it is awarding a cash prize of $1,200 — enough to potentially cover a year's worth of health insurance premiums for a young adult — to people who download their health care app or submit a card in the mail.

The contest runs through the fall, but by launching it now, organizers hope young people who download the app can use it to learn more about whether they qualify for financial assistance and where they should go to sign up.

"This last month is going to be a huge push for educating young adults," says Jen Mishory, deputy director for Young Invincibles.

What’s behind these new incentives?  A government report released Tuesday showed that 4.2 million people chose private insurance plans through March 1, meaning 2.8 million people would need to buy coverage this month if the Obama administration is to meet its initial goal of signing up 7 million people by the end of the enrollment period. In an analysis released Wednesday, Avalere Health, a consulting firm based in Washington, D.C., said it expects total enrollment will top out at 5.4 million by the end of the month.

Young people are particularly lagging behind in other groups in signing up. So far, 25 percent of those who have selected private plans are between the ages of 18 and 34. Administration officials have said repeatedly that they expect young and healthy people to put off signing up for insurance until the last minute. So groups are getting creative with their approach in the final push.

Kyle Pfister, founder of Ninjas for Health, a startup based in Milwaukee that consults for public health agencies, got local musicians talking — and singing — about the law by giving them an artistic task: write a song about the benefits of getting health insurance. After more than 10 artists gathered to sing and record a video for the song, dubbed "Sing Forward," he engaged other local musicians by challenging them with a competition to see who could develop the best remix of the song.

Some artists rapped the lyrics, while others submitted videos of them whistling the entire song. And some sped up the song and added techno beats. Hannah Conklin, one of the winners announced Wednesday afternoon, recorded herself on Valentine's Day singing a folk version of the song on a street corner in Asheville, N.C., where she lives now, as two people dressed in heart costumes danced alongside her. "We will sing forward, our health to yours," the 28-year-old belted while strumming her red guitar.

Conklin, who sings by the name Hannah Rebekah, is the kind of artist Pfister is hoping to reach. She knew very little about the law when she moved back to the U.S. from Japan in September and doesn’t have insurance, but she is now talking to navigators about her options. And Anna Vogelzang, 29, the local artist who wrote the song, says many of her musician friends found less expensive insurance plans through the insurance exchanges. (She already had insurance through her husband’s job.)

"We're starting a conversation with people who wouldn’t normally be talking about this," says Pfister, who says he has no hard numbers for how many people reached out to navigators or visited as a result of the contest.

State-based exchanges are also trying alternative approaches. DC Health Link, the exchange for Washington, D.C., promoted their new educational app at a local bar last week. The Washington Health Benefit Exchange in Washington state is partnering with roller derby groups to help spread the word. And Connect for Health Colorado held a comedy show for earlier this month in Greely that targeted young adults. Other groups are holding creative competitions and targeting specific professions.

“We are trying to figure out how to get the most out of every hour," says Rachel Klein, the enrollment program director for Families USA, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit consumer advocacy group that supports the law.

Even President Obama is changing the tone of his message. In a six-minute Web video that went viral this week, the president pitched to young people during an awkward, dry and comedic interview with actor and "The Hangover" star Zach Galifianakis.

“I heard about that, that's the thing that doesn't work," Galifianakis told the president during the segment, in which he also asked the president if he plans to build his presidential library in Kenya and who he rooted for during the winter Olympics.

"The point is that a lot of young people, they think they're invincible," the president said, to which Galifianakis replied, "Did you say invisible?" The Funny or Die video sent more than 54,000 referrals to Tuesday, and the government site received more than 890,000 visits by the end of the day, up 40 percent from Monday.

Supporters and government officials are also shifting the thrust of their message, moving away from emotional ploys to get people to think about how they might benefit and pointing out that they need to act right now.

Enroll America, a nonprofit organization working to increase access to health insurance, is dedicating less real estate on its consumer-focused website,, to sharing success stories of people who got covered. Instead it is more prominently featuring tools that can help people figure out if they are likely to qualify for subsidies and help them find a navigator.

The group has also cut back on door-to-door canvassing and is holding mass enrollment events in churches, mosques and universities around the country.

"Think about a church where you might reach a few hundred people versus door-to-door where you might reach five people in one hour," said president Anne Filipic during an interview in their D.C. headquarters this week. She added that their education initiatives will continue well into the summer as they prepare for the next open enrollment season.

"There is a lot of attention on the March 31 deadline, but we’re not shutting our doors after that."

More from MarketWatch

Mar 14, 2014 1:48PM

The tactics being used to get young people to sign up for Obamacare are pathetic. That alone shows what a failure it is.

Mar 14, 2014 12:50PM
Further proof that Obamacare missed the mark of what the real problems are with the American healthcare system.
Mar 14, 2014 1:43PM

Wow! Total fail from the beginning now paying them to sign up to get it for almost free?

Obama Fraud Care is a 100% fail and must be repealed. Less than 15% who signed up have no insurance and 85% lost theirs, so had to sign up.

15% and now illegals are being pushed to get it when Obama said they would not qualify- more lies from the Lieberals.

How much more failures dies this Obama Crap need before Congress pulls the plug on it.

Mar 14, 2014 1:57PM
Coming next week:  free tickets in the $500 million dollar Powerball lottery for signing up for Obamacare.

Brought to you courtesy of Executive Order.
Mar 14, 2014 1:58PM
It's a three ring circus!  "Come one,come all to the greatest scandal on Earth."  Bozo and company..soon to be unemployed…giving out more taxpayer cash!
   I swear,the country would be better represented if we just picked names out of a phone book.
Mar 14, 2014 1:54PM
4.2M have signed up, but how many have paid for their first month premium? Obama and his cronies can't seem to answer that question.
Mar 14, 2014 1:59PM
So a lottery for signing up for health insurance, which will actually cost WAY more than $1200.  The average young person is not going to be incentivized into signing up because of this.  If they can do basic math they will realize the cost of plans on the ACA exchanges is not affordable and choose not to sign up (and many have done this).  You could also assume that with said math skills, they realize the odds of winning the $1200 are slim, and not worth the insanely high costs of buying a plan.  I give credit to young people.  They realize this is a bad deal when they see it.  If only they remember it on election day.  Because the people who voted for the turds who jammed this law down our throats are clearly idiots.
Mar 14, 2014 1:32PM

Just mail arsenic pills to all foodstampers, all the counties problems will be solved in a week.

We have zero use for grown a** able bodied adults that are unable to even feed themselves.

Mar 14, 2014 2:05PM

Pretty damn scary that the president and the government are doing everything in their power to get citizens to sign up for a government controlled health care.  It shows the government wants to run more of peoples lives and this is not a good thing.


If young people are smart they will see that the president and the government are tricking citizens into a government run health care system. When the government has more information on a person, that person has lost his freedom.


I never trusted the government. something is deeply troubling about how the president and the government are spending billions of dollars, hiring hollywood stars and the media to promote a government run system.


This should make people run from obamacare.


Mar 14, 2014 1:20PM
To bad they don't offer for real health care ins. I want a new toaster!
Mar 14, 2014 2:09PM
Obama and the Democrats communist health care and their entire agenda of control can and will go to HELL!
Mar 14, 2014 1:48PM

a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C. that is focused on the economic issues affecting young adults, launched a sweepstakes last week where it is awarding a cash prize of $1,200 — enough to potentially cover a year's worth of health insurance premiums for a young adult — to people who download their health care app or submit a card in the mail.

Now if this is a real gimmick to get the young people to sign up, they better realize that later they won't have any choice but to stay in Obama Care.

Mar 14, 2014 2:12PM

Knowing full well how much the Obama junta LOVES to manipulate numbers, I would not be shocked to learn that of the 4.2M who've sighed-up, 2.3M of them are prison inmates.

Mar 14, 2014 2:14PM
There seems to be no end to how much of out tax dollars our retarded president is willing to p I s s away on this POS law.
Mar 14, 2014 2:13PM
it just keeps gettig funnier how the whithouse acts and needs help signing people up for something they tout as being soooo great.  typical greedy people who voted for this idiot we have in the whitehouse. only see the handouts and not the real costs or what they will have to pay in the future.  trash this law
Mar 14, 2014 2:28PM

I don't understand how a program that was made out to be the best thing to ever happen for Americans in the history of forever needs to be SOLD for people to sign up.

Mar 14, 2014 2:22PM
Does the 4 million that signed up cover the amount of people that lost their health insurance due to Obamacare? 

Seem's to me like there are even more people without health insurance now than there was before.

Once you get back to the original number of people who HAD health insurance you can start counting, until then it's still in the negatives.

Lol, young people still are not signing up and have no intention of doing so. Funny they are trying to bribe people with "cash prizes" AKA more handouts to sucker them in.
Mar 14, 2014 2:20PM
Mar 14, 2014 2:38PM
"Cash prizes for signing up for Obamacare?"

Another sad commentary for a sad President.
Mar 14, 2014 2:17PM
"Nationwide spending on publicity, marketing and advertising to promote the health overhaul could hit at least $684 million, according to data compiled The Associated Press from federal and state sources. "  -- Michael R. Blood, July 25, 2013

I wonder how much the Administration paid out each to Young Invincibles, Ninjas for Health, Families USA and Enroll USA (all mentioned in the article)?   So, no wonder we're starting to see gimmicks like free give-aways for enrolling . . . it's a classic case of spend it or lose it.
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