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We need to fix Obamacare's young-person problem

Allan Einboden, CEO of Scott & White Health Plan
Thursday, 23 Jan 2014 | 9:00 AM ET

The promise of health-care reform was to ensure that all Americans had access to affordable medical care. Two components of the Affordable Care Act were designed to extend coverage to those most likely to lack coverage.

Medicaid would be expanded to cover those most financially fragile, while the federal exchange, or marketplace, would ensure that everyone capable of paying for at least a portion of their coverage would be able to purchase a policy or pay a penalty.


Volunteer Tony Hausner, left, assists an enrollee at a health insurance event in Silver Spring, Md.
Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Volunteer Tony Hausner, left, assists an enrollee at a health insurance event in Silver Spring, Md.

It has become clear that the penalties intended to incentivize individuals to obtain coverage are too small to motivate participation. This made engaging healthy individuals tantamount to creating a sustainable program.

(Read more: Aetna could be forced out of Obamacare: CEO)

Regrettably, the many issues with the launch of the federally-facilitated exchange turned the hope of engagement into a complete turn off, especially for young people who are more demanding of a great experience. Only 118,000 individuals have enrolled in Texas and 66 percent of those individuals are over the age of 35. This has set up a negative risk situation.

It is time to collaboratively develop a strategy to engage young, healthy people. We need to use the best young minds who understand social media and networking to develop innovative ways to connect.

(Read more: Obamacare math may not add up for 'young invincibles')

We need young people to understand how vulnerable they are without coverage. No one should ever experience a traumatic health event without coverage. When the unexpected occurs, it is too late to get the coverage that is desperately needed.

There must be recognition by policy makers that allowing insurance-company losses to mount will not create the sustainable marketplace that is needed. Health insurers need some level of assurance that poor risk development will be corrected to provide a competitive, dynamic market. The alternative would be a market dominated by a few insurers offering few options and ultimately no market at all.

Here we stand at the crossroads of health-care reform. Let's take the road less traveled and make all the difference.

(Read more: Obamacare blitz woos the young with star power)

— By Allan Einboden

Allan Einboden is the CEO of Scott & White Health Plan in Temple, Texas, which insures more than 200,000 people. Follow Scott & White on Twitter @swhealthcare.

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