By: Jonnelle Marte
Young people love procrastinating. They also like their insurance cheap.
Those are two takeaways apparent in enrollment data updated Tuesday by eHealth, which runs eHealthInsurance, a private insurance exchange. The web broker said 45% of customers who purchased insurance plans that are compliant with the Affordable Care Act this year through March 23 were between 18 and 34 years old. That’s compared with 39% of those who shopped during the first half of the enrollment period, from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31.
The figures suggest that younger consumers are waiting until later in the enrollment period to purchase insurance plans. The average age for a person buying insurance on eHealth’s exchange dropped to 36 years old on March 23, from 39 years old on Jan. 1. The average premium paid by an individual also dropped over that time period, to $261 from $290, a sign that the people buying plans this month may be younger than those buying earlier in the enrollment period, says Brian Mast, a spokesman for eHealth.
Another sign more young people may finally be getting around to shopping for insurance: catastrophic plans, which come with high deductibles and under the law are generally only available to consumers under age 30, are becoming more popular. Some 14% of the plans purchased this quarter were catastrophic, up from 10% last quarter. Bronze plans are most popular among eHealth customers, most of whom aren’t getting subsidies. (In contrast, silver level plans are most popular on the public insurance exchanges, where roughly 80% of people are getting help paying premiums.)
The latest data available from the public insurance exchanges showed that roughly 25% of consumers who purchased plans through HealthCare.gov and the state-run insurance exchanges by March 1 were between the ages of 18 and 34. With new enrollment figures from the Obama administration not expected until a few weeks after the March 31 deadline, some health pros are looking to the private enrollment information as a sign that more young people might be signing up on the public exchanges also. “It suggests we may see something comparable in the public exchanges,” says Larry Levitt, senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Government officials and supporters of the health law have found creative ways to get young people to learn more about their coverage options. Young Invincibles, a nonprofit group based in Washington, D.C., is raffling a cash prize of $1,200 — enough to possibly cover a year’s worth of health insurance premiums — to people who download their educational health-care app. Some groups are using music, jokes and March Madness to get young people’s attention.
While the enrollment figures for the public exchanges have been watched more closely, the mix of people who buy off-exchange plans will also impact how insurers set next year’s premiums. Many of the plans sold on eHealth, for example, are the same as the plans being sold on the public insurance exchanges, and insurers will be looking at their total risk pools when it comes time to set premiums.