Obamacare's Grassroots Marketing Plan Falls Flat



Obamacare's marketing to young adults isn't going as well as hoped. The original, highly targeted door-to-door campaign intended to reach out to the young and healthy demographic the White House has said is critical to the law's success has been largely scrapped, according to Buzzfeed's Evan McMorris-Santoro:

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 options.

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 victory."