HHS Launches Video Contest to Attract Young Obamacare Subscribers

By Susan Jones | August 20, 2013 | 7:29 AM EDT

Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, center, addresses attendees at a stakeholder meeting to address implementation of the Affordable Care Act, Monday, Aug. 19, 2013, in Houston. (AP Photo/Houston Chronicle, Cody Duty)

(CNSNews.com) - The Department of Health and Human Services is sponsoring a video contest (“the weirder and more outlandish the better”) to attract an important group of insurance subscribers it describes as "young invicibles."

Under the Affordable Care Act, everyone must purchase health insurance or a pay a fine. But if young people don't sign up for health insurance through the Obamacare exchanges, premiums for everyone else will increase, even though the Obama administration has promised "affordable" insurance for all.

The “Healthy Young America” video contest announced on Monday offers a $30,000 prize pool, with a maximum award of $6,500. HHS said it is seeking videos -- skits, music or animation -- that describe the circumstances in which young people need health insurance because of an accident.

Young Invincibles, the advocacy group partnering with HHS, says the competition is a good way to "engage" young people by reaching them through their preferred video medium.

Young Invincibles even offered some "idea starters," such as:

-- A video showing all the (obviously improbable) situations in which young people can be hurt – a piano falling on your head, an angry eagle soaring into your face, a space alien attack … the weirder and more outlandish the better! Go big!

-- A day in the life of “the invincible boy” or “invincible girl.”

As many as 100 cash prizes will be awarded to the creators of the best videos.

"So whether you’ve got a talent for short films, writing a great song, or designing an entertaining video infographic, you can be a winner!" HHS said.

Video submissions are being accepted for the next five weeks, until shortly before the new Obamacare exchanges open on Oct 1.

“Soon the Health Insurance Marketplace will give uninsured young people the opportunity to enroll in affordable health insurance, and the Healthy Young America video contest will help them tell their stories to other young people,” HHS Secretary Sebelius announced on Monday, as she traveled to Texas to promote Obamacare.

HHS said the videos must "convey the need for young people, ages 18-35, to have health insurance, and it must get across the message that young people are not invincible.

Songs must express the necessity for young people to have health insurance in a "fun and memorable way."

And animations must educate young Americans about various features of the Affordable Care Act, emphasizing that millions of young people will be eligible for free or discounted health insurance.

Last week, HHS awarded $67 million to 105 Navigator groups that will help uninsured Americans sign up for coverage on the new exchanges.

But a recent analysis of Obamacare shows that 3.7 million young adults will be at least $500 better off if they avoid the ObamaCare exchanges and simply pay the fine in 2014.

The study from the National Center for Public Policy Research, a free-market think tank, found that about 6 million "young invincibles" -- those aged 18-34 who are single and childless -- will likely be eligible for the exchanges.

But for 3.7 million of these individuals, their out-of-pocket premium costs for a Bronze plan, after their federal subsidies are factored in, will be $500 plus the cost of the individual mandate fine. For just over 3 million, the out-of-pocket costs will be $1,000 plus the fine.

This will give millions of them an incentive to merely pay the fine, which in 2014 is $95 or 1 percent of income, whichever is higher -- and pocket the rest.

"These are people with very modest incomes who are going to be forced to shell out a lot of money for some of the cheapest plans on the exchange," said David Hogberg, a health care policy analyst for the Center.  "That's money they need to pay rent, buy groceries, or make a used-car payment."

And Hogberg notes that because of an exchange rule known as "guaranteed issue," young people can sign up for insurance if and when they need it.

"Without the young and healthy joining the exchanges, the insurance pools will be comprised of the older and sicker," said Hogberg. "Insurance prices will rise, more young and healthy will drop exchange coverage, and insurers that can't make a profit will drop out. All the elements of a death spiral."