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“To some degree, we need to be driving home the message that, no matter what age you are, you have health risks and health care is expensive,” said Larry Bussey, director of communications for Medica, a Minnetonka-based insurer with plans on the exchange. “You see that with the MNsure campaign and with the Paul Bunyan advertising. A lot of it is about accidents and things like that that can hit anybody at any age.”
The MNsure ads, one of which features Babe the Blue Ox driving a boat and Bunyan crashing on water skis, “tested very well with the younger audiences” and were part of the strategy to recruit younger enrollees, said Jenni Bowring-McDonough, a MNsure spokeswoman.
Young adults have always been difficult to lure into health insurance unless they received it from their employers; they’ve often been labeled “young invincibles” because of the attitude that they’re too healthy and fit to need insurance.
Blue Cross created a plan in 2007 called Simply Blue that was targeted to young adults by keeping premiums down, covering preventive care, and eliminating benefits they didn’t immediately want such as maternity coverage. Medica created similar products and launched a campaign with ad images of a young gay couple, an ear with six piercings and a sky boarder.
Minnesota legislation further targeted that population in 2010 by allowing young adults to remain on their parents’ health plans until age 25, regardless of whether they were employed or in school, and then the federal Affordable Care Act expanded that cutoff to age 26.
Jonathon Gustafson, a 33-year-old self-employed IT consultant, said he will soon be shopping for benefits on MNsure for himself and his wife, who just aged out of her parents’ insurance plan, and for their new baby. He said the delay in signing up was because he was losing his coverage under MinnesotaCare due to an increase in his income, and he was waiting for formal notification.
Colacci said she was pleased to find three plans on MNsure that were affordable and offered the benefits she wanted. She was willing to put up with any technical glitches if the end result was better benefits.
“I happen to like that there is this option,” she said, “so I think I have more forgiveness toward all of this.”
Jeremy Olson • 612-673-7744