Deadline for MNsure approaching March 31

Published 4:44 pm Saturday, March 22, 2014

Leaders looking for ‘young invincibles’

mnsure logo_color_tag_TMThe final push to sign up Minnesotans for MNsure is on.

Local insurance agents are watching and waiting for clients as leaders of Minnesota’s new health insurance exchange announced a final push Thursday to sign up so-called “young invincibles” by the March 31 deadline for open enrollment, targeting an underinsured group that’s key to keeping premium costs down.

Agents and financial advisors say older people are still signing up at far faster rates than younger residents.

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“The majority certainly have been, in my experience, have been 55-plus,” said Paul Wahlstrom, a Blue Cross agent with the Austin Health Insurance Agency.

Wahlstrom said he is seeing more young residents in their 20s and 30s, many of whom qualify for MinnesotaCare or other help in getting health insurance, as the deadline looms.

“I think the expectation was the younger folks who maybe tend to wait until the end of the enrollment period might be the ones to come in late,” he said. “I guess the ones I’ve talked to most, lately, have been the younger ones.”

Not so for financial advisor Charles Moline, who said he has yet to enroll younger residents. Moline is concerned not enough young people will sign up as MNsure continues, which could cause rate hikes throughout the state.

“It’s terrible,” Moline said. “This is a system waiting into implode.”

More than 128,000 people have signed up via MNsure for coverage in private insurance plans and public programs such as Medicaid as of Thursday, but only 16 percent of those signing up for private plans are in the 26-34 age group.

MNsure officials hope that will improve as the deadline approaches, but MNsure head Scott Leitz said they haven’t set specific enrollment goals for that age group.

“It’s important for young people to have health insurance coverage, but it’s going to be important for all of us that young people are covered because it’s going to help keep all of our premiums low,” he said, pointing to the fact that young people typically need less health care than older participants.

Healthy young people might think they don’t need insurance, Leitz said.

“But given the harsh winter we’re having, and frankly continuing to have, you might be one wipeout away from needing to make a trip to the hospital,” he said.

Treatment for a broken arm for someone without insurance costs about $3,000, he said, while an MRI scan can cost $2,000 to $9,000 and even a simple check-up can cost $200.

Rates are higher in southeastern Minnesota because of a lack of health care options — Mayo Clinic and Mayo Clinic Health System dominate the health care field in the area. That has translated to hundreds of dollars more in health insurance costs for individuals each month compared to the Twin Cities area, which has greater competition among health insurance companies because of multiple health care options.

Health insurance companies are trying to get rid of higher costs in the area, however. Blue Cross Blue Shield and Mayo officials announced a payment system agreement in January designed to pay for better health care results while lowering overall costs.

Meanwhile, Leitz announced Thursday a series of outreach events for the coming week aimed at young adults, including sign-ups at popular Twin Cities bars and at campuses statewide in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system. Events in Minneapolis and St. Cloud will feature Barkhad Abdi and Faysal Ahmed, Minnesota stars from the movie “Captain Phillips.”


—The Associated Press contributed to this story.