Low Cost Health Plans Attracting Massachusetts’s Young Adults to Comply with Mandate

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When legislators enacted the ground breaking mandatory health insurance laws that recently went into effect in Massachusetts they were primarily targeting seniors and the working poor without health insurance. However there is another group in the state that make up a large proportion of those without health insurance. The young and healthy.  Most of these folks have gone without health insurance not so much because they couldn’t afford it, though that is a factor, but because they felt they did not need it.

Now any adult over the age of 19 are part of the mandate that requires health insurance, and law makers are working with health insurance providers to develop specific low-cost health insurance plans tailored to the 19 –26 market. These youths traditionally are those who have foregone health insurance for the aforementioned “immortality factor” of youthful vigor, and because they tend to be low or hourly wage earners.

The Commonwealth Health Insurance Connector the state agency set up to oversee compliance with the mandate has designed affordable health insurance products targeting this demographic with monthly premiums as low as $106.00. Which represents significantly lower rates than young adults could have found for private health insurance before the mandate went into effect.

Yet one of the greatest challenges remains simply convincing younger people that they need health insurance, let alone that it is now required. Boston resident Paul Bruns is a typical 26-year-old, strong athletic and ambitious. He's also is currently uninsured. Paul says, “I definitely think about it when I'm skiing or snowboarding or doing something else crazy." "What would happen if I broke up something really bad or my appendix burst, which is totally reasonable for a guy my age?"

July 1 was the deadline to obtain health insurance under the new law. There is a grace period until the end of the year. Anyone without insurance by Dec. 31 can face the loss of their personal exemption when filing state taxes next year. Stiffer penalties are excepted to be enacted come January 2008. The Connector is hoping the low cost health insurance plans developed for the 19 – 26 year old age group will entice those like Paul, to comply with the mandate. Roughly 27 percent of Massachusetts residents ages 19 through 26 are currently without healthcare insurance.  Larry Levitt with The Kaiser Foundation says “Frankly, young people don't think about catastrophic coverage and don't think about access to the system for routine coverage."

Low-income youths can qualify for subsidized plans and other state and federal programs. These young adult plans that cost between 106.00 and 220.00 per month, are designed for working individuals aged 19- 26, who are not currently covered by any other plan, and earn more than $30,630.00 annually. These young adult workers are often in their first positions out of college, are burdened with student loans, and living paycheck to paycheck. Low cost health insurance is attractive to these individuals.

The young adult low cost health insurance plans are being offered through The Connector by some of the top health insurers in the State including: Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, Tufts Health and others.