Megan Chapman is among the holdouts. The 23-year-old college student from High Point, N.C., has been without health insurance for several years. She's been thinking about signing up through the new federal marketplace but said she's heard conflicting information about the costs, prompting her to do more research before she follows through.
"It just depends on the price and how much financial aid I can get," said Chapman, her laptop and spiral notebook spread out before her as she worked in the Guilford Technical Community College cafeteria in Jamestown, N.C. "I'm unemployed. I can't pay a whole lot of money. So that will definitely be a major factor."
(Read more: Finding uninsured Americans by the numbers)
As Chapman studied, a volunteer from Enroll America was going from table to table in the cafeteria, encouraging uninsured students to sign up for coverage. The volunteer, retired dentist Benjamin Williams, 75, didn't persuade Chapman to enroll, but he did get her to sign a card setting her up for a follow-up phone call to answer her health care questions. With Chapman's personal information now in Enroll America's system, volunteers will almost certainly keep tabs on her enrollment status through the March 31 deadline, mirroring the way the Obama campaign kept track of likely Democratic voters.
Unlike the political campaign, in which staffers relied on voting records to track possible supporters, there's no ready-made list of the uninsured. So outside groups are compiling their own databases through contacts their volunteers make while they're promoting the health law at colleges, bars, church youth group events, even laundromats.
Marlon Marshall, another veteran of Obama's presidential campaigns, who now oversees health care outreach efforts for the White House, said the strategy for signing up young people it to "meet them where they're at."
The approach worked for Philippe Komongnan, 27, a student at the University of the District of Columbia. Komongnan thought he had health insurance, but when a bad ear infection brought him to the emergency room last year, he was told he no longer had coverage. Because his school requires students to have health insurance, he had to sign up for coverage through the college that costs nearly $700 per semester.
Then Komongnan started noticing a health care display in the lobby of his classroom building, the one where Bransfield works most days. After a couple of conversations, Bransfield plugged Komongnan's information into Washington's health care website and discovered that he qualified for Medicaid, which has been expanded under the new health law. While Komongnan's health insurance costs will be reduced dramatically, he doesn't count toward the pool of young and healthy people the White House is courting since he's getting coverage through Medicaid, not the new private marketplace.
Bransfield, who works for the aptly named organization Young Invincibles, said signing up young people takes patience, given that most are buying insurance on their own for the first time. The process can sometimes take weeks, he said, as people collect the information they need to enroll or weigh the options available to them.
But the rapidly approaching March 31 deadline has increased the pressure on Bransfield to get the students through the system faster.
"We're trying to make sure it feels urgent," he said.
—By The Associated Press