ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) -- Leaders of Minnesota's new health insurance exchange announced a final push Thursday to sign up so-called "young invincibles" by the March 31 deadline for open enrollment, targeting an underinsured group that's key to keeping premium costs down.
MNsure chief Scott Leitz announced a series of outreach events for the coming week aimed at young adults, including sign-ups at popular Twin Cities bars and at campuses statewide in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system. Events in Minneapolis and St. Cloud will feature Barkhad Abdi and Faysal Ahmed, Minnesota stars from the movie "Captain Phillips."
More than 128,000 people have signed up via MNsure for coverage in private insurance plans and public programs such as Medicaid as of Thursday, but only 16 percent of those signing up for private plans are in the 26-34 age group.
MNsure officials hope that will improve as the deadline approaches, but Leitz said they haven't set specific enrollment goals for that age group.
"it's important for young people to have health insurance coverage, but it's going to be important for all of us that young people are covered because it's going to help keep all of our premiums low," he said, pointing to the fact that young people typically need less health care than older participants.
Healthy young people might think they don't need insurance, he said.
"But given the harsh winter we're having, and frankly continuing to have, you might be one wipeout away from needing to make a trip to the hospital," he said.
Treatment for a broken arm for someone without insurance costs about $3,000, he said, while an MRI scan can cost $2,000 to $9,000 and even a simple check-up can cost $200.
To drive home the value to young people of getting insured, MNsure offered up an actual "young invincible," Scott Beauchamp, a St. Paul native and 2013 graduate of Lawrence University in Appleton, Wis.
Beauchamp said he was enrolled in health insurance through his employer, the St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce, until he got the dreaded notice in February that he had to start repaying his student loan. So, he checked out MNsure and found a plan with lower premiums and lower deductibles that he said will save him over $500 this year.
"That's not as much as some people have been able to save, but for someone like me, when you're trying to get your first apartment, trying to get those student loans under control, $500 really goes a long way," he said.
The MNsure news conference was held at St. Paul College, a community and technical college in the MnSCU system where the average age of students is 29, according to Tom Matos, the school's chief student affairs officer. So, many of them are too old to stay on their parents' health insurance, which cuts off at age 26. That's why it's important to sign up for coverage, Matos said.
The 31 colleges and universities in the MnSCU system offer a health plan that's being phased out for all but international students, partly because of its high costs. Only about 3,500 of the system's 200,000 for-credit students were enrolled in the plan in 2011, MnSCU spokesman Doug Anderson said.
The separate University of Minnesota system offers its own student health plan, and officials there say it can be a more affordable option with better coverage than exchange plans for many students.