- The Washington Times - Monday, December 9, 2013

Officials at California’s struggling health insurance exchange have a suggestion for parents trying to decide what to buy their adult children for the holidays: How about Obamacare?

Covered California launched its “Give the Gift of Health” advertising campaign late last week encouraging Mom and Dad to pick up the tab for those health insurance policies that young adults are avoiding in droves. Signing up the young, who typically will not need major health care services, is considered crucial to making the president’s health care exchanges a financial success.

“In the spirit of the holiday season, some family members or friends may choose to help young adults, paying for a month or more of their insurance premium,” said a news release on the Covered California website.

The campaign isn’t as in-your-face as the recent Colorado ads urging young women to access the exchange’s birth-control benefit in order to hook up with cute guys, but both strategies come as examples of the increasingly creative — and perhaps desperate — efforts to boost enrollment among healthy young adults.

Covered California also asks parents and relatives of young adults to “make a pledge to get loved ones covered” and offers a “pledge certificate that can be presented to loved ones during the holidays as a symbol of your willingness to help them get insured.”

Plus, there’s an “e-card that can be sent to friends and family with a personal message and more information about their options for insurance through Covered California, including low-cost or no-cost Medi-Cal.”

The California ads follow figures released Nov. 21 showing that seniors are far outpacing 20-somethings in enrolling on the state health care exchange. (Some 36 states declined to set up their own exchanges and have defaulted to the federal government’s troubled Obamacare website.) Fully 34 percent of all individuals signed up in October were 55 to 64 years old, while just 8 percent of the enrollment came from those 18 to 25, according to Covered California.

“The old folks are outrunning the kids in the race to sign up for California’s insurance,” said an article on the business website CNBC. “If the trend continues, it might lead to higher premiums down the line.”

The report found that 2,344 adults from age 18 to 25 enrolled for the program in October, while 4,580 adults 26 to 34 were enrolled. Covered California estimates that 1.8 million Californians 18 to 29 are eligible to buy insurance through the health care exchange.