Nineteen Million

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Sometimes a single number shakes me in my boots – a budget line, a murder rate, a grant amount.

Currently, the number “rocking my world:” Nineteen million.

Nineteen million is the number of young adults who will qualify for relatively low cost health insurance under provisions of the Affordable Care Act.  That’s about half of the total number of potential new insureds under the Act. Some three million young people who could plausibly join their parents’ plans past age 21, thanks to the Act, have already done so; 19 million more remain to get connected with insurance.

Notably, 19 million represents three times the latest estimate of “opportunity youth”  who are out of school and out of work.  That no public or private response comes close to the scale needed to reengage opportunity youth fully, serves as a reminder of the immensity of the task in front of the nation to realize the promise in the Act.

Indeed, terms such as “quantum leap” and “step change” shrink in adequacy in the face of the bold, generationally significant public policy stroke embodied in the Act.

It’s going to take all youth workers, all city programs touching youth and families, all postsecondary education institutions, the entire service industry and other employers with high percentages of young adult workers – just to get anywhere close to 19 million new enrollees.  These groups and others need immediate, full access to those planning and implementing state health insurance exchanges and federal equivalents to prepare for the unprecedented scale of activity set to commence during the October-February enrollment period.

At stake: Nothing less than delivering for 19 million young adults what so many of we older workers already enjoy in the form of employer-provided health insurance benefits.