November 15, 2013

Lack of younger enrollees threatens exchanges

By Michael R. Blood
The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

“These are people that have been waiting a long time to get covered,” he said.

In Colorado, an aggressive campaign from allies of the state-run exchange includes provocative ads. One targeting women combines the promise of free birth control pills with the notion of casual sex. Another ad shows women with a contraption made of alcohol shot glasses glued to an old snow ski. “Saving money on flu shots leaves us more money for fun shots,” the ad reads. The day the health exchange launched, male and female models wearing nothing but underwear and “Get Covered” signs passed out fliers on a downtown Denver street.

It’s not clear whether the campaign is working. Colorado’s exchange has yet to release a demographic breakdown of the 3,700 people who selected an individual policy last month.

“We are making an extra push to reach young adults, and we do expect they’re going to take a lot of encouraging because they tend to wait until the last minute,” said Myung Kim, spokeswoman for Colorado’s exchange.

If such efforts fail and insurance companies end up with too many sick or expensive customers, they might need to increase premiums or eventually leave markets to avoid taking heavy financial losses.

“It’s going to be very messy for the next couple of years, until we figure out who is buying insurance,” said Glenn Melnick, director of the Center for Health Financing, Policy and Management at the University of Southern California. “There are a lot of pieces of this that are just black boxes right now.”

Aetna Chairman and chief executive Mark Bertolini said last month that it was “incredibly important” to get the exchange websites running properly because “the younger, healthier people aren’t going to give them more than one shot.”

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