LOS ANGELES (AP) – The image projected before the classroom at California State University, Los Angeles showed a pair of gleeful sky divers plunging through the air.

“You’re young and you’re healthy…. Why do you need health insurance?” a caption asked.

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The answer to that question – posed in a presentation by a state-funded medical insurance educator working on California campuses – is vital to efforts to overhaul the nation’s health care system, the Los Angeles Times reported Sunday (http://lat.ms/JvmHso ).

Supporters and detractors of the Affordable Care Act are fixating on so-called “young invincibles,” generally healthy adults in their 20s and 30s who don’t rack up large medical bills. Only by collecting premiums from more infrequent users of medical services can insurance plans expect to offset higher costs of treating newly insured older and sicker patients.

With critics producing ads urging them not to sign up, it’s unclear whether the prized group will respond to the outreach efforts. In California, about 22 percent of those who enrolled in coverage over the first two months were under 35 years old. National figures have not been released.

In addition to the sky-diving duo, recent graduate Carla Bracamonte’s 30-minute presentation last month focused on care that young adults might find themselves needing: asthma treatments, reproductive services and mental health counseling.

The campus health center won’t be able to help if students are injured in a late-night car accident, she told the audience. A three-day hospital stay can run $30,000, she said.

“This is a very good deal for our students,” said Walter Zelman, a public health professor who is coordinating outreach teams on 15 California State campuses. “We just have to reach them. It’s difficult to get students to focus on something that’s reasonably complicated and not something they’re craving.”

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The trained educators are becoming regulars in student centers and classrooms as part of a push to reach college students funded by a $1.25-million grant from Covered California, the state’s health insurance exchange for the public. They seek to demystify and pique interest in new health care options.

Funding runs through the Affordable Care Act’s full enrollment period, which ends March 31. Still, getting answers for everyone remains a tall order.

“When someone is sick, I tell them to see the doctor,” said pre-med student Tracey Ng, 19, of El Monte. “They say they can’t afford it because they don’t have insurance.”

To address such cost concerns, the education team is tweaking its message. Initially, members publicized an example of a $51-a-month premium for comprehensive coverage for a 21-year-old making $18,000 a year.

That proved to be a turnoff for some students scrambling to make ends meet. A new handout highlights a higher-deductible “Bronze Plan” that would cost the same 21-year-old as little as $14 a month.


Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

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