Minnesota's market where individuals and families buy health insurance coverage on their own is looking a little long in the tooth.

The Star Tribune reported on the new study this morning, and focused on how the state's individual market actually shrank between December and March -- not a good sign for premiums in the market.

The study from the Minnesota Council of Health Plans also looked at the age breakdown of the market, and noted a big difference when it comes to people age 55 to 64.

Folks in that age bracket account for 12.6 percent of all state residents, according to the report, but 29.5 percent of all those covered in the individual market.

The numbers are intriguing because they suggest Minnesota's market might lack a group that's been called the "young invincibles" -- younger adults who tend to be healthy, and therefore are important for balancing risk pools under the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA).

The health law needs young and healthy people to buy coverage, because the ACA bans the unpopular practice of health insurers denying coverage to people with pre-existing health conditions. In an attempt to reach the young, outreach workers have tried a variety of new strategies including information sessions in  bowling alleys.

But do the new numbers constitute an age problem?

The Minnesota Council of Health Plans, which generated the report, says more study is needed to answer the question.

The new report finds that 22.1 percent of all policyholders in the state's individual market are age 18 to 34. That's actually pretty comparable to the share of state residents in that age bracket.

Nationally, 28 percent of people who by health insurance on their own are between the ages of 18 and 34, according to the report, and there was some speculation several years ago that the health law's new exchange markets needed about 40 percent of enrollees in the "young invincible" category.

The research group that came up with that 40 percent figure, however, said it's not a fatal flaw if a market falls short of the mark.

Roughly 5 percent of Minnesota residents purchase individual policies -- meaning private coverage outside of employer groups and government programs -- and those consumers already have seen hefty premium increases in each of the last two years.

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