National and local leaders came together last week to urge young Wisconsinites to sign up for health insurance through the federal health reform law at various enrollment assistance programs across the state.

U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, joined by Kathleen Falk, Region V director of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Dane County Executive Joe Parisi spoke with students Friday at Madison Area Technical College to explain the benefits and importance of signing up for health coverage.

“Too many people have experienced the fear of living without health insurance — the fear of being healthy one day and suddenly getting sick or of a healthy loved one getting sick,” Parisi said. “With the Affordable Care Act, people don’t have to live with that fear anymore.”

With enrollment for health insurance through the federally-facilitated exchanges ending March 31, these leaders are pushing for as many people as possible to enroll before the deadline.

The exchange, which is run by either the state or federal government, allows for individuals to get cheaper access to health care based on income and allows for people to compare coverage options side-by-side, according to

Falk urged adults to explain the benefits of enrolling for health care to young people, emphasizing that only a little more than a month was left before the deadline.

The issue of universal health care through the Affordable Care Act has caused political controversy across the nation, and Wisconsin is no exception. The official Republican argument against Obamacare is that the law is unconstitutional as it forces individuals to buy health insurance or be subjected to a tax.

Additionally, Republicans argue that the law will cause health care costs to rise while decreasing the quality of care and at the same time adding $500 billion to the national debt, according to the GOP website.

Despite the debate, individuals are signing up for health care through the exchange at high rates, according to a statement released by Wisconsin’s Protect Your Care campaign. In Wisconsin, 56,436 people had signed up for health insurance plans by the end of January, the statement said.

Last year, Gov. Scott Walker made changes to BadgerCare Plus, the state’s Medicaid program, which will expand coverage for some of the state’s residents and shift some who were in the program onto the federal exchange.

“In 2014, everyone living in poverty will be covered — for the first time — under Medicaid in Wisconsin,” Walker said regarding BadgerCare in a statement. “No more waiting lists and no more enrollment caps. Wisconsin’s unique solution to health care will ensure everyone in our state has access to health care.”

Recent data released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services showed that in the past four months alone, 3.3 million people have signed up for health care coverage across the country. Young people between the ages of 18 and 34 are signing up for coverage at a faster rate than all other age groups combined, according to the data.

“The numbers are reaching right where we were hoping they would reach,” Pocan said. “We are excited that millions of people are going to have access to affordable health care.”