Idaho health insurers target young people as March deadline nears

adutton@idahostatesman.comFebruary 26, 2014 

One of Blue Cross of Idaho's new ads encouraging young adults to buy its health insurance. The Affordable Care Act requires young adults to be insured. The rate quoted in this ad is for a 31-year-old female with a $25,000 annual income who purchased the company's Bronze Connect plan with a monthly federal subsidy of $65.19.

Young and uninsured? Maybe a Jeep or some indie rock will change your mind. At least, that's the hope of some Idaho health insurance companies.

The under-35 age group has been dubbed "young invincibles" at the national level, because of its historic lack of insurance coverage. First Lady Michelle Obama recently joked that young people are accident-prone "knuckleheads" who need insurance even when they are healthy.

At least two health insurers in Idaho are marketing to young adults, as the end draws near for enrollment in subsidized health-insurance plans. One company will be at Treefort Music Fest, while another is targeting advertisements to college students and giving away a Jeep, iPads and GoPro cameras.

YOUNG INVINCIBLES

"It's the hardest piece of the population to reach ... folks in the young age bracket," said Karen Early, spokeswoman for Blue Cross of Idaho. "Frankly, it's not a topic they're especially interested in, especially if they're single and don't have kids. It's not top-of-their-mind of things they would like to spend money on."

Health insurance companies and the White House closely watched enrollments of people 18 to 34 years old as the Affordable Care Act's health-insurance exchanges rolled out over the winter. That's because young adults are considered crucial to the 2010 health-care reform law's survival. Young Idahoans' premiums are expected to help pay for the chemotherapies and coronary bypass surgeries of older Idahoans — a cost-sharing structure that would play out perpetually as young people age.

About 26 percent of all Idahoans who bought health insurance from Idaho's exchange, Your Health Idaho, as of mid-February were in the 19-to-34 age bracket. People on the older end of the spectrum, age 55 to 64, make up the largest group of buyers so far.

Blue Cross of Idaho recently launched a campaign called "Good to Go" that targets the 'young invincibles' in Idaho. The insurer bought a 2014 Jeep, 12 iPads and 12 GoPros that it will give away as part of the campaign. People can enter the contest by watching a cartoon video on the Blue Cross contest website — bcidaho.com/goodtogo — and giving Blue Cross their contact information, but enrollment in an insurance plan isn't required.

Blue Cross is peppering college newspapers with colorful ads that show young adults playing outdoors — diving into a river or skiing at Targhee.

"With a sweet government subsidy, Brian's good to go for just $4.12 per day," says one ad, showing a man with a fish on St. Joe River. That is based on a subsidized premium for a 28-year-old male making $27,000 a year, on Blue Cross's cheapest plan with the least generous benefits. The full premium is actually about $150 a month, but Blue Cross assumes a monthly subsidy of about $27, for someone with Brian's demographics.

Early declined to say how much Blue Cross has spent on the ad campaign and the giveaways.

"Full-time college students (at most schools) have coverage already, but part-timers might not, and of course the students may have family members and friends for whom the messaging is on target," Early said in an email.

FOR THOSE ABOUT TO ROCK, THEY (WANT TO) INSURE YOU

Meanwhile, the Oregon-based company PacificSource is targeting young people as part of its "Get Out. Get Covered." campaign. The insurer is doing outreach in coffee shops, gyms, restaurants and shopping malls.

PacificSource also is a sponsor of Treefort Music Fest and will have a booth next to the main stage. The booth will have refreshments and a charging station for mobile devices, as well as subsidy calculators and PacificSource representatives.

Treefort Music Fest takes place about a week before March 31 the deadline for enrollment on insurance exchanges. After that, people can enroll rarely, such as after losing a job or losing employee benefits.

DEADLINE COMING UP

Consumers who miss the March 31 deadline can buy stop-gap plans but will not receive premium subsidies, since they won't be enrolling through exchanges. The short-term plans also do not have to meet new standards for "essential benefits" and out-of-pocket costs, unlike the plans sold on exchanges.

The proposed enrollment period for 2015 exchange plans, with or without subsidized premiums, is Nov. 15 through Jan. 15.

Visit the Your Health Idaho exchange website at yourhealthidaho.org to compare benefits and prices, find insurance brokers and guides who can help with insurance enrollment, or apply for a health plan through a federal online portal.

Audrey Dutton: 377-6448, @IDS_Audrey

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