Health insurance targeting the young

A stethoscope sitting on a laptop

TEXT OF STORY

Renita Jablonski: They're young. They're healthy. And they're betting they're going to stay that way. That's what they think -- 19 to 29-year-olds are the fastest-growing group of the uninsured in the U.S. -- roughly 13 million at last count. It's a market insurance companies are working to target by trying to make health plans super cool. From Georgia Public Broadcasting, Devin Dwyer has more.


Devin Dwyer: After graduating college this spring in Atlanta, poli-sci major Joshua Miller stands around talking to classmates about the future. He's thinking about becoming a paralegal and maybe going on to law school. One thing that isn't on his mind, though, is health insurance.

Joshua Miller{ I don't get sick that often, to be honest with you, so it hasn't really crossed my mind.

Like many 20-somethings, Miller has outgrown his parents' health policy and has no plans to buy his own.

Miller: I can't afford it.

Studies show one-third of all college grads are uninsured the year after graduation. The numbers concern some policymakers, but insurance companies see the young and uninsured as a business opportunity.

Ads like this one, posted on YouTube by Blue Cross Blue Shield, are the latest trend in insurance marketing. Young people are shown having fun, grooving around a colorful dance floor. But then, one of them hits the ground and can't get up.

Sam Gibbs with eHealthInsurance.com says insurers are trying reach 20-somethings by focusing on favorite activities that can be hazardous to their health.

Sam Gibbs: You'll see young adults on skateboards and snowboards and, you know, that whole X-games, so by getting people early on to start participating in the health insurance marketplace, chances are they will stay with you for a long time.

But critics say no matter how "hip" insurers try to make health coverage, many uninsured young adults will always say no.

Dr. Sara Collins: Ninety percent of people who sought coverage end up never buying a plan either because it's not affordable, or a plan that meets their needs.

Dr. Sara Collins is with the Commonwealth Fund, a private health policy research foundation. She says most uninsured young people earn less than $20,000 a year.

Still, companies have found some success with marketing to 19-29-year-olds. Wellpoint, parent company of Blue Cross Blue Shield, says 80,000 young adults have signed up for its individual plans. And 70 percent of those were previously uninsured.

In Atlanta, I'm Devin Dwyer for Marketplace.

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