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White House to step up health care outreach to younger people

– The Obama administration says it will ramp up Obamacare outreach in 25 cities to lure younger people to the program after a report showed that about 70 percent of the initial customers are 35 years of age or older.

The effort by the administration and allied interest groups will focus on a Feb. 15 target to sign up people for coverage beginning March 1, said White House officials, who spoke to reporters on the condition they not be identified.

The Obama administration wanted people younger than 35 to make up about 40 percent of total enrollment to help offset the cost of care for older and sicker people. Missing the target for “young invincibles” may lead insurers to adjust prices if gains aren’t made by the official March 31 end of enrollment.

“It is more of a scale than a cliff,” said Robert Zirkelbach, a spokesman for America’s Health Insurance Plans, the industry’s lobbying group in Washington. “The more young, healthy people participate, the more stable the marketplace will be and the more affordable premiums will be.”

The federal- and state-run insurance exchanges, the heart of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, enrolled 2.2 million people for private health plans in the three months ended Dec. 28, the Department of Health and Human Services said in a report released Monday. About 24 percent were 18- to 34-year-olds, and about one-third were 55 or older.

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