Health insurance targeting the young

A stethoscope sitting on a laptop


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.

Log in to post5 Comments

This story was on the mark. Many states are stuggling to find ways to include this demographic into their insured population. It has been interesting watching the focus on this portion of the population. For instance, state regulators have bent over backwards to facilitate on line enrollment for the industry.
There is one technical point I would like to point out, Wellpoint licenses the the BCBS brand in several states but not all. In fact this is one of the most diverse brands in any business. In Vermont, for example, BCBS is an seperate non profit without affiliation to any other organizaiton licensing the BCBS brand. The same name, BCBS, serves both for profit companies like Wellpoint as well as non profits.

As an uninsured college graduate, I found this story (and the above comment) insulting. "What's the surprise that young people don't think they're ever going to get sick?" As a young person, that certainly surprises me. Health issues are a major concern for me. However, insurance plans for those of use who have been laid off or are unable to find work out of college in this economy are *prohibitively* expensive. No amount of "cool" is going to change that.

The reality is that the Majority of the Un-Insured in America are Hispanic. Within the age brackets listed above (19-29) half of Hispanics in that age bracket are Un-insured. The highest percentage of any grouping in America.

This is trajic.

Rudy Lehder Rivas, President

I currently struggle to cover my college-aged daughter with health insurance. Story was topical. Thank you!

You asked our reaction to the story about the story on young people not getting health insurance. I found the story void of any real content. First, where's the surprise that young adults don't think they're ever going to get sick? That's not NEW. Second, how do the insurers go about making health coverage attractive? I'm not convinced that showing dangerous activities is going to influence very many young adults to insure themselves against the mindset that "I'm not sick very much." It's only after they've had that serious broken bone accident or head injury that they're suddenly wanting the medical coverage they never bothered getting around to procuring.

Tom Land

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