Friday, October 31, 2014

Healthy young people critical to Obamacare’s real success

4/2/2014

The deadline passed this week for the first round of sign-ups through the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. The enrollment numbers are light in one important group: healthy young people. This vital subset of Americans — sometimes referred to as young invincibles — are needed to offset the higher health care costs of senior citizens and others. President Obama is pleased with the overall number of Americans who signed-up through the marketplaces for insurance, though he also recognized that more can be done.

Young people who are fraught with student loans and in the midst of building a life independent of their parents aren’t rushing — as hoped — to sign up for health insurance. That should be no surprise. These are the same young people, who when they’ve been involved in a car wreck, make the decision to take the insurance settlement check — even when it is a lower amount — rather than repairing their vehicles. These are the same young people who don’t have cable TV, and instead watch movies and TV shows online from their family’s video streaming programming. About 3 million young people — up to age 26 — were able to remain under their parent’s insurance plans.

The deadline passed this week for the first round of sign-ups through the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. The enrollment numbers are light in one important group: healthy young people. This vital subset of Americans — sometimes referred to as young invincibles — are needed to offset the higher health care costs of senior citizens and others. President Obama is pleased with the overall number of Americans who signed-up through the marketplaces for insurance, though he also recognized that more can be done.

Young people who are fraught with student loans and in the midst of building a life independent of their parents aren’t rushing — as hoped — to sign up for health insurance. That should be no surprise. These are the same young people, who when they’ve been involved in a car wreck, make the decision to take the insurance settlement check — even when it is a lower amount — rather than repairing their vehicles. These are the same young people who don’t have cable TV, and instead watch movies and TV shows online from their family’s video streaming programming. About 3 million young people — up to age 26 — were able to remain under their parent’s insurance plans.

Other young people think themselves to be invincible, so they aren’t signing up for health insurance because they are willing to take the risk that they’ll remain healthy. Plus, who wants or can afford to pay for something they might not ever use? Still, when considering a possible 6:1 ratio of health care costs for senior citizens versus young people, it’s clear that without young and healthy enrollees, the costs for everyone else will go up, which is far from what the president promised. Sometimes people — especially young people — don’t know what they don’t know, and understanding the economic security of health insurance might not yet be a priority for them.

It needs to be if the Affordable Care Act is going to work.

But why would it?

Young people are loathe to spend $2,500 per year on a plan with a $5,000 deductible without walking away thinking they are senselessly subsidizing less-healthy American’s health care costs. Combine those factors with some employers’ reduction in the workforce to offset rising health care costs for workers, as well as employers’ reduction of part-time employees’ work hours to accommodate mandates in the Affordable Care Act, and plenty of friction points are apparent leading to fewer supporters rather than more.

Educating young people about the benefits of economic security rather than focusing on what many perceive as a transfer of wealth from the young to the old will be paramount to ensuring the success of the Affordable Care Act. Circumstances in life change quickly for young people; being signed up for insurance might move from being a hurdle to being standard operating procedure in the future.

If not, Obamacare will be what critics have long called it: unaffordable.

— Jeanny Sharp, editor and publisher

comments powered by Disqus