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Younger People Are Attractive Clients for Health Insurers, Blue Cross Says

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Sep. 7--Health insurers are focusing their attention on a younger audience, as 19- to 29-year-olds make up one of the fastest-growing segments of uninsured Americans, according to Blue Cross of California.

The insurer will soon release a new product tailored for young adults who historically aren't interested in purchasing insurance because it is too expensive or perceived as unnecessary. The Thousand Oaks-based company anticipates releasing the new product by the end of the year.

"We're looking to enhance or introduce a plan designed to better accommodate the changing expectations of individuals," said Kellie Bernell, a spokeswoman for the firm. "With this population, we could build a lifelong relationship."

Insuring younger adults can be difficult because the population is often more inclined to switch jobs or change geographic locations.

The group is also more vulnerable to salaries that cannot absorb the costs associated with health insurance.

When Michelle Davis lost her job, signing up for a COBRA plan that cost more than $300 a month was her only option. Unable to afford such a plan, Davis decided to risk going without health insurance until she found a new job.

"Unfortunately, I was in a car accident and found myself without health insurance," Davis said.

She sought to purchase a new plan after her accident, but insurers were reluctant to provide coverage at the time. "The health insurers were denying me on the basis of certain conditions I had as a result of my accident. I was in the hospital," said Davis, 25, who is now working for a Tarzana-based insurance agency.

Currently covered by a Blue Cross PPO plan, Davis isn't as concerned about seeking coverage anymore -- but she did say she had previously underestimated the importance of health insurance at the time.

Anne Eowan, vice president of government affairs for the Association of Life and Health Insurance, said many younger people are uninformed about insurance, a significant problem when they are suddenly dropped from their parents' plan.

"And insuring this age bracket requires making it more of a priority," Eowan said.

Insuring younger adults is already a priority for companies like Blue Cross because that population is less susceptible to illness.

"Insurance companies love providing coverage for this group because they tend to be healthy," she said.

Blue Cross already offers plans that are popular among young adults.

The company's short-term health plans are more affordable for those seeking immediate coverage for a temporary period of time, the insurer said. Blue Cross also offers a range of longer-term private-insurance plans.

Most range between $43 and $189 a month, depending on the policy's deductible.

Health Net is also in the process of developing additional plans for young adults. Lisa Kalustian, a spokeswoman for the Woodland Hills-based company, said the firm sells a substantial number of plans to this demographic.

"We need to encourage young adults to investigate what's out there," Kalustian said.

Health Net plans to introduce its new products in the next four to eight months.


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(c) 2003, Daily News, Los Angeles. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News.

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