Health insurers failing to attract young people-WEB ONLY

Two-thirds of college-age Americans rank health insurance as important as salary in looking at jobs. Yet just as many have made no plans to obtain health insurance once they graduate from school this month.

That’s a problem for companies like Indianapolis-based Golden Rule Insurance Co., which commissioned the survey that produced those conclusions.

It’s also a problem for health insurers in general, which need generally healthy young people to join their risk pools to help cover the costs of more costly members.

The survey polled 1,000 Americans between 18 and 21 using an online questionnaire. It was conducted in April by the Polling Co. Inc., based in Washington, D.C.

The biggest obstacle to getting health insurance is not young people’s invincible mindset, but their ignorance, according to the survey.

Only 18 percent of those who opted to take the survey said they did not need coverage because they are in good health.

But 69 percent said they are fuzzy on the details of their parents’ plan. One in four said they don’t even know when their coverage will end under their parents’ plan.

Those findings differ from the conclusions drawn by Indianapolis-based WellPoint Inc. two years ago when it launched an individual health insurance product, called Tonik, aimed at what it called “young invincibles.”

But Golden Rule contends it needs only to get more information out to college-age students.

“Young adults recognize the importance of having health insurance coverage but are ill-prepared to make good decisions about it when they leave school,” said Rich Collins, CEO of Golden Rule and president of UnitedHealthcare’s individual line of business.

Collins touted Golden Rule’s short-term health insurance plans, which offer one to six months of coverage. But the company clearly has a lot of work to do to market them. Its own survey found that 83 percent had not heard of short-term health insurance.

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