Health & Science
6:00 am
Mon January 27, 2014

Health Insurers Get Creative Hoping to Lure In "Young Invincibles"

Security Health Plan of Wisconsin targets young adults with new marketing campaign.
Security Health Plan of Wisconsin targets young adults with new marketing campaign.
Credit Security Health Plan of Wisconsin

There’s good and bad news about the new federal health care exchange. More people are signing up, but they’re mainly older adults. If the trend continues it could spell trouble for the marketplace.

It needs a mix of ages to be affordable. On Monday, one concerned insurer in central Wisconsin launched a unique campaign at young adults.

If you live in Marshfield and order pizza from Scotty’s, you’ll find a little something extra with your food.

“They’ll get one of our advertisements pasted to the top of the box.  And it will be directing them to look into more information about Security Health Plan," says Marty Anderson, director of consumer marketing for Security Health Plan of Wisconsin.

Anderson says it wants to tell people ages 26 to 35 not only about his company, but also about the health care exchange the Affordable Care Act created for Wisconsin residents. And pizza boxes are just one vehicle the company will use.

“Facebook advertising, banner advertisements on many websites that are targeting young individuals, we’ll be doing cinema advertising as well. So we’ll be advertising prior to movies,” Anderson says.

Anderson says in order for the health insurance marketplace to work, it needs a mix of old and young customers.

The latter are sometimes called the “Young Invincibles” because they’re typically healthy and don’t see the need to buy health insurance.

When it comes to people who’ve bought into the federal exchange here and across the country, only about 24 percent are young. Anderson says the goal is 40 percent.

“We have about 50 percent of our enrollees that are 55 to 64. In order for this to be viable long term we need to get those younger people enrolled in the policies to make sure that long term health insurance premium costs remain in check,” Anderson says.

While Security is going on the offensive, Donna Friedsam says some fears are premature. Friedsam works for the UW-Madison Health Population Institute.

“This actually occurred in Massachusetts as well when they did their health care reform that was the predecessor to the Affordable Care Act. The healthier younger people actually enrolled in the program toward the later months of enrollment,” Friedsam says.

Participants have until March 31 to enroll. Friedsam says the mix right now is good enough to make the system work, at least for now. But the balance must be maintained over the long run.

Bobby Peterson represents ABC for Health, a nonprofit law firm in Madison. He says the state needs to spend more money getting the word out about the exchange.

“I think that there’s an effort, it’s largely unfunded. Its local community groups using their own resources for the most part to try and help raise awareness,” Peterson says.

Wisconsin leaders opted not to create a state exchange, so federal funding for promotion is limited. Perhaps participating insurers here will watch how Security Health Plan’s new advertising campaign works.

Spokesman Marty Anderson doesn’t know what to expect.

“We’ve never done anything like this before, so it’s really a test market opportunity for us,” Anderson says.

Anderson says he will closely monitor reaction and the numbers.