White House taps PolicyMic to engage millennials on A.C.A.

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The White House is participating in a project with local media company PolicyMic as part of its outreach effort to millennials, seen as a crucial element in the success or failure of the Affordable Care Act.

The site, a platform that combines a core group of paid and unpaid regular writers as well as a broader user base totalling about 2,500 millennials and claiming to reach 10 million unique visitors a month, launched an "Open Mic" competition in which young people are asked to submit ideas about how to make A.C.A. insurance programs more accessible to them. Submissions will be accepted for one week only.

The competition was launched at the White House Youth Summit earlier this afternoon, on the same day a new poll from Harvard University's Institute of Politics showed that 57 percent of voters aged 18 to 29 disapprove of the law, while 38 percent approve.

But in fact the project has been in the works for several months now, and was originally planned for an early to mid-October launch, before problems with the healthcare.gov website launch had come to light. A job opening for a "Special Projects" editorial internship, which Capital has confirmed was designed for this project, was posted to PolicyMic on Sept. 19. According to the job description, the intern would be responsible for editing submissions for the competition. (Disclosure: I was a candidate for that internship and used to write for PolicyMic.)

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PolicyMic says the delay in the launch of this project initially was caused by the 16-day partial government shutdown in October.

Enrollment by younger, healthier individuals is thought to be a key to making the Affordable Care Act work, by helping to keep premiums low across the program.

Using the site's Reddit-style up-voting system, users in the program will "mic" or vote on the best proposals and ideas to find three finalists, each of whom will receive a direct response from the White House. It's not yet clear on the White House side how who will respond to the finalists will be declared.

Everything from specific policy proposals to education and outreach programs are encouraged in submissions.

In October, the site completed a $3 million round of funding led by California-based LightSpeed Venture Partners, with additional funding from Lerer Ventures (funders of BuzzFeed, Branch, BirchBox and NewsCred among other local startups), Advancit Capital and Red Swan Ventures. Jake Horowitz, formerly a writer for Change.org, and Chris Altchek, an ex-investment banker at Goldman Sachs, co-founded the site in 2011, describing it as "our generation’s platform to make our voices heard" through "high-quality, personal analysis on the news, policy, and pop culture that’s changing our world."

While the company is not now focused on revenue the plan is to develop native advertising platforms similar to those that have been developing at sites like Buzfeed. OpenMic events have been a part of the company's approach from the start, though, and Condolleezza Rice responded to finalists with the most Mic'd discussions about Middle Eastern policy. The site also featured a competition to field the best ideas for tackling teen bullying; finalists won a ticket to a Lady Gaga concert and a chance to meet her in person after the performance.

"We want to use our media platform as a lot more than a place to read content," PolicyMic cofounder Jake Horowitz told Capital. "We want to connect our generation to decision makers and get them to hear our voices which is what we're trying to do."