Young and defenseless: Online campaign tries to educate uninsured about high cost of accident

Colorado’s first statewide nonprofit health insurance cooperative launched a new awareness campaign last week to educate “young invincibles” about the potential costs of not having health insurance.

The name young invincibles comes from a term used in the insurance industry that refers to young adults who choose to go without health insurance because of their perceived invincibility — that is, they don’t feel they need it, according to the Colorado Trust.

This may be because they are healthy, feel invulnerable and don’t anticipate needing health care, or that they’re more willing than older adults to take the risk of not having coverage, the trust said.

As the Dec. 23 health insurance enrollment deadline approaches, healthy but uninsured Coloradans may overlook the high cost of an unanticipated or unexpected medical issue, said Julia Hutchins, chief executive officer of the Colorado Health Insurance Cooperative. 

In 2011, more than one in 10 Americans experienced an unintentional injury or poisoning, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Dr. Jack Westfall, the cooperative’s chief medical officer.

The data also show unintentional injury is the leading cause of death among Americans under 45, Westfall said.

Dubbed “#FAIL,” Colorado HealthOP’s online campaign highlights how expensive a careless act can be, Hutchins said.

“This is really about calling attention to things that happen in everyday life — accidents with unintended consequences that happen simply by living,” she said. “Those sorts of things happen to everybody regardless of who you are and what you’re doing and they can be pretty costly.”

The campaign runs through the end of January. It includes a series of #FAIL memes that illustrate the hard costs associated with relatable but scatterbrained injuries.

For example, if you drop a box on your foot and break your toes, it could cost you $18,000 without insurance, according to Healthcarebluebook.com, an online resource that helps consumers determine fair prices for health care services in their area.

“It can happen to teens, it can happen to young adults, it can happen to old adults, and it’s very provocative,” Westfall said. “Everybody thinks about stubbing their toe or twisting their ankle.”

One of the examples given in the #FAIL campaign related to an incident Westfall experienced.

“I felt that I was not young but was still invincible and could dunk a basketball,” Westfall said. “I’ve never been able to dunk the basketball. Why I thought two weeks ago that I could dunk the basketball is beyond me, but I did.”

Westfall ended up with a sprained shoulder, but not a massive health care bill.

“I’m OK and I’m going to survive and it did not cost me $6,000, but it got me thinking about ‘what if?’ “

The cooperative offers some products tailored-made for youth called “CYA plans.”

“It can stand for a number of different things, but it also stands for Colorado young adults,” Hutchins said.

CYA plans are higher deductible plans, some with deductibles as high as $6,000. Two primary care doctor visits are covered, she said.

“Those plans are about helping people pay for unintended events that are way beyond their means to be able to afford,” she said. “Six thousand dollars is a lot of money, but $15 (thousand), $20 (thousand), $30,000 is something that could set you back financially for a long time.”

Hutchins and Westfall denied they are attempting to frighten young people into buying insurance.

“We’re encouraging a conversation about coverage in a different kind of way than they’re used to from a typical insurance company,” Hutchins said.

Westfall said the campaign focuses on accidents instead of illness because the company did not want to point blame at anybody.

“We didn’t want to talk about smoking, diabetes, or even obesity right now,” Westfall said. “That’s not really a particularly exciting conversation.”

The campaign is solely produced by Colorado HealthOP and is not connected to or endorsed by the state’s health insurance marketplace, Connect for Health Colorado.


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