MNsure goes out to target youth

Many young people still haven’t joined the health insurance marketplace.

MNsure navigators help people with questions about enrollment and available health insurance plans at Sweeney's Saloon on Thursday.

Chelsea Gortmaker

MNsure navigators help people with questions about enrollment and available health insurance plans at Sweeney’s Saloon on Thursday.

Allison Kronberg

The Affordable Care Act’s March 31 midnight deadline will mark the end of national and state health care exchanges’ push to recruit more uninsured people — especially young, healthy ones.

MNsure, Minnesota’s online health care exchange, finished its “March to Enroll” month with a week dedicated to enrolling young people, in response to the Affordable Care Act’s requirements.

From libraries to local breweries, MNsure representatives sat in on more than 100 events throughout the state, ready to answer young people’s questions about their health care options.

“This is a group that’s traditionally really underinsured and financially very vulnerable,” said MNsure Spokesman John Schadl. “People in their 20s are starting out their careers, and they don’t have much money. An accident could pile on top of $30,000 to $80,000 in student loans, and that could hurt your career.”

According to MNsure, two-thirds of all bankruptcies are the result of medical costs.

Of MNsure’s approximately 152,000 enrollees, 21 percent are between ages 19 and 34 — and that’s not enough, Schadl said.

That age group, known as the “young invincibles,” is valuable because it’s statistically the healthiest, he said. In order for insurance costs to go down for everyone, healthy people have to enter the market so there’s more money to go around.

But this group is often uninsured. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, young adults ages 19 to 25 represent 30 percent of the nation’s uninsured — higher than any other age group.

In Minnesota, U.S. Census data showed the uninsured rate of 18- to 24-year-olds dropped from 20 to 13 percent in the past two years.

If someone doesn’t already have or apply for insurance by midnight, they will have to pay $95 or 1 percent of their income above $10,150 — whichever is higher.

“It’s the law now,” Schadl said. “Much like you have to have car insurance, you’re going to be required to have health insurance.”

University of Minnesota College Republicans Treasurer Matthew Stetler said he thinks health insurance is important, but he doesn’t think it should be required for everyone.

“It really should just be up to the individual people,” he said. “I think the individual mandate is ridiculous. Whether or not it’s good or bad, it should be up to whoever to do what they want to do.”

Economics freshman Ken Cowles is covered under his father’s insurance plan and has never been uninsured.

When he turns 26 and can’t be on his father’s plan anymore, he said, the military will insure him once he graduates through the Reserve Officers Training Corps.

“No matter what, no matter how physically in shape you are and however healthy you eat, stuff can happen,” Cowles said.

The University offers its own health insurance, the Student Health Benefit Plan, to students taking six or more credits of a degree program. In 1975, the University started mandating that all students have a health insurance plan in order to enroll, and it began requiring proof in
spring 2012.

“Over the years, it has been part of our mission to ensure that students have access to health care because that is essential to their academic success,” said University Student Health Benefits Director Sue Jackson.

The most common reasons students drop out of school are medical and financial, she said.

The plan offers no out-of-pocket costs, covers 98 percent of providers in Minnesota and has international providers for students studying abroad.

But the plan is only available to students, and it is not one of the options on the MNsure exchange website.

When choosing a health care option, Jackson said, there are three things that students should consider: low deductibles or out-of-pocket costs for medical procedures, a wide network of available providers and a low monthly premium.

The Affordable Care Act has changed some things for young people, Schadl said. For example, they’re now eligible both for more tax credits and Medicaid.

If people don’t yet have a health insurance plan and aren’t eligible to be enrolled under the University’s plan, Schadl said to go to the
MNsure website and fill out an enrollment attempt form. As long as applicants fill out the form by midnight on March 31, he said, they won’t be fined.

The next opportunity to enroll is Nov. 15.

“We’ll be doing aggressive marketing like this again all over the state,” Schadl said.