ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — New Mexico’s health insurance exchange launched an advertising and marketing campaign Thursday that it hopes will get the coveted “young invincibles” to purchase the coverage they are required under the federal Affordable Care Act.
If a kickoff event at Central New Mexico Community College is representative, exchange officials might be “pleasantly surprised,” said Debra Hammer, the exchange’s chief communications officer.
Within the first hour, 75 people filled out cards asking for more information about health insurance, a rate that was better than expected, she said.
The young invincibles are 18 to 34 years old. Since that age group tends to be healthier and requires less care than other demographic groups, they can keep an insurance pool’s premiums more affordable than if only older and less healthy customers sign up.
Brooke Buchanan, a 34-year-old University of New Mexico student, grabbed a free hamburger provided by the exchange and asked about her coverage options. She works part time at UNM’s Center for Developmental Disabilities and plans to become a special education teacher.
Buchanan said coverage she buys through UNM costs roughly 15 percent of her income. Advisers with the exchange told her she probably could do better buying insurance on the exchange with the help of a federal subsidy.
Salvador Nieto, a 23-year-old who is studying criminal justice at CNM, has no health insurance. He broke his ankle last year and had to pay $1,000 out of pocket for a hospital visit. Treatment, including a cast, would have cost thousands of dollars more, so Nieto declined further care and “toughed it out.”
Nieto hasn’t been able to afford insurance, but he hopes ACA programs will help him buy some so he can stay healthy for the sake of his 5-year-old daughter.
Mycah Scott, 23, is studying nutrition at CNM. She lost coverage when she turned 21 and hasn’t been able to find affordable coverage.
Exchange advisers encouraged her to apply for Medicaid, which this year for the first time is available to most low-income adults in New Mexico.
“You never know what could happen,” she said. “I’d rather be prepared.”
About 11,620 individuals in New Mexico have purchased insurance through an exchange since Oct. 1. About 20 percent of those are young invincibles, Hammer said.
The exchange will sponsor other enrollment events at community colleges in Las Cruces and Portales. It has launched an advertising campaign featuring young people in neck braces or standing with crutches, but they are sporting huge smiles because, thanks to insurance, their futures are secure.