It's a shame that the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) alienated one of the demographics most important to its success: the generation seeking memes and life hacks that will only stay on a site as long as there's another good list article; the generation that generally abhors wonkiness; the generation in which nearly three out of five members believe elected officials are motivated by "selfish reasons."
In this way, the website's failures and the ensuing political circus might have ended in a small victory for those behind the shutdown. But the war isn't over yet; the ACA is here to stay, and millennials are in a unique position to benefit. The main hurdle to it's success with millennials — that they're unfamiliar with the ACA — is something that can change in a flash.
A recent Gallup poll among American adults under 30 spells it out.
Millennials seem to shut down upon hearing jargon-esque language about premiums, deductibles, and levels of care. Maybe we're not used to worrying about health care because our parents' plans cover many of us, or we're young and healthy, or we can't afford the premiums anyway.
It’s also a hassle. The fact that we have to figure out some new law and, unless your health care was already set, pay a fine or take up a new monthly bill.
But here’s a newsflash, for something that provides peace of mind, health, and well-being to so many Americans, it’s not asking anyone to do that much. Wading through some misinformation on the bill isn’t an undue burden. It's not below us, and just because it is somewhat of a hassle doesn't mean the system's flawed, or the government's corrupt, or the politics around the ACA are out of touch. I don’t think many historical fights for two of the big inalienable three (life, and pursuit of happiness) have been as simple as dealing with a website malfunction.
This issue is a product of our lack of engagement with the bill; millennials (as well as Democrats) report lower familiarity with the ACA than other groups. Just 63% of Americans aged 18-29 and 64% of Democrats report being familiar with the health care law, while 88% of Republicans and over 75% of the population over age 50 report familiarity. The demographics meant to carry the ACA's launch are lagging way behind. So far there hasn't been much change in awareness, either.
The good news is that this can be fixed with something we're good at: information. Remember we are the crowd sourcing generation. The digital natives who are professional social media managers, and know how to make anything viral. We’re the generation that can whip up a guide in an hour, or locate someone else’s in seconds. We’re also the activist generation with a propensity to care for transparency and public information. It's ridiculous that 41% of those who approve with the law, and 43% of those who disapprove of the law are unfamiliar with it.
For millennial engagement with the ACA, all we have to do is put it in our terms: success story memes, life hacks for how to find deals on the market, persuasive, entertaining content that coaxes those around us to make healthy choices, and drives to sign people up.
The ACA ensures that millennials can remain on our parents' plans until we're 26. It increases Medicaid access to 5.4 million young people. It covers maternal care, which can be staggeringly expensive. It also covers the preventative care that millenials stand to benefit from most because we have years and years to follow through with it.
The ACA is something worth fighting for, particularly as millennials. And at the moment, the problem can be fixed with something we’re good at: online activism.