Insurers introduce policies aimed at the young uninsured

Crawford Frazer

Although young people are assumed to be healthy and low-maintenance when it comes to health care, many do need insurance for expensive emergencies. Yet a tough job market, combined with their lower salaries and financial struggles (student loans, for example), has made paying a monthly health insurance premium unworkable for a lot of young adults.

As a result, some insurers are targeting young people with innovative plans in an attempt to address their unique needs.

Targeting Generation Y

In March 2011, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan introduced the Young Adult Blue Max plan. Available only to people between ages 19 and 30, the plan provides health and dental coverage for premiums as low as $93, according to its website. The plan covers emergency services, office visits (for a $30 deductible), surgical care and outpatient services. Some preventive care services are free.

Keep in mind that the Blue Max plan could involve some relatively high out-of-pocket costs. There's a $1,000 deductible before much of the coverage kicks in and a 30 percent co-insurance rate for many services. You'll pay more for out-of-network care. Still, the plan comes with an out-of-pocket annual maximum of $3,500; once you've paid that amount out of your own wallet, the plan will cover 100 percent of costs for the rest of the year.

Meanwhile, HealthPartners, a nonprofit insurer in Minnesota is offering its own plan for young adults who find themselves in a coverage gap. Called Link90, the plan provides short-term health insurance coverage. The coverage lasts for only 90 days.

Link90 covers three visits to the insurer's online clinic and provides some discounts -- but not much else. Essentially, it's a catastrophic health insurance plan designed to provide emergency coverage for a major illnesses or injuries while the policyholder is waiting for more comprehensive coverage (from an employer, for example). Depending on your age and the deductible you're willing to pay, your premiums could be as low as $32 a month.

The young and the uninsured

Such options may appeal to the many young people living without coverage. Uninsured and underinsured young adults are everywhere, according to advocacy group Young Invincibles. In 2010, the number of young Americans without health insurance climbed to 21 million, or one-third of all uninsured Americans. Young Invincibles reports that many in the younger demographic don't actually feel invincible -- they just can't afford coverage. Two-thirds of people ages 18 to 29 make less than $44,000 a year.

Even if they're living without health insurance, many young people do need coverage, according to Young Invincibles.

  • Young adults have the highest rate of injury-related emergency room visits of all age groups.
  • About 15 percent of young Americans have a chronic condition.
  • In the last decade, about five preventable deaths a day occurred among patients between 25 and 34 because they lacked insurance.