A Winona small-business owner who knows firsthand the value of health insurance is hosting an event Friday hoping to convince Winona’s youngest and healthiest to sign up, too.
They’ll even get the benefit of having a beer while learning the details.
Ed Hoffman will host a happy hour event at Ed’s No Name Bar featuring a certified representative for the state’s MNsure health exchange. The event comes three days before the March 31 deadline for Minnesotans to sign up for health insurance under the new federal law or face a fine.
Anyone is welcome at the event, though Hoffman figures the target crowd will generally be between the ages of 18 and 34. That makes Hoffman the kind of ambassador states across the country are looking for — those working to reach a large group of people, dubbed “young invincibles,” who are generally healthy and lack basic health insurance.
“As a small business owner, I know a lot of folks who don’t have insurance,” he said.
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Until recently, Hoffman was one of them. After he launched his bar, he sacrificed his insurance and went without for a number of years. Then a series of medical bills the past couple of months gave Hoffman a wake-up call.
“I felt kind of silly for not having filled out the application sooner,” he said.
He’s hoping the event will allow new applicants to ask honest questions, get personal assistance from a MNsure representative, and, as he put it, “navigate bureaucracy with a beer.”
The idea to hold the event came from Hoffman’s longtime friend Jacob Grippen, a community outreach liaison for MNsure and regular performer at Ed’s.
Buying insurance, the 30-year-old said, can be scary or confusing at times, and it’s easy to put off.
“Young people procrastinate,” he said.
Holding the event at the bar is an effort to meet uninsured Winonans in an environment that’s fun, social and accessible, he said.
Part of the event will be coaching people through the process, which hasn’t been the smoothest for everyone in Minnesota, with its own exchange, or other states using the federal system.
Hoffman found his own signup tricky, he said, but manageable. After a few bumps at the beginning his application went smoothly and he is due to receive coverage starting April 1.
The biggest message Grippen hopes to communicate, he said, is that young invincibles are anything but.
“The hospital doesn’t care how old you are,” he said.