Katie LaPotin, Red Alert Politics, December 3, 2013
It’s been two months since the Obama administration first opened up the healthcare exchanges for the Affordable Care Act, problems and all. But it’s not the website’s technical failures that will ultimately bring down the program, it’s the fact that the people most critical to the program’s success – young adults – are both unaware of the law and, quite frankly, don’t plan on signing up for it.
According to a Gallup poll released Tuesday, a whopping 37 percent of adults aged 18-29 are not familiar with the healthcare law – the highest of any tested age group. Overall, 28 percent of Americans are still unfamiliar with the law, a number that has changed very little over the past two months.
Moreover, young Americans who are familiar with the law have lost faith in President Barack Obama because of it. Two polls released in November found that a majority of Millennials disapprove of the president’s handling of healthcare in the United States, and are even starting to doubt Obama’s ability to lead the country as a result.
It’s pretty well-known within the Beltway that the success of the program relies upon young Americans buying into the healthcare exchanges, as they tend to be healthier than their elder counterparts and thus are expected to cost less to insure from the providers’ side. Instead, the average age of Americans signing up for the Obamacare healthcare exchanges in October was in the fifties in many states – far higher than the administration and the exchange operators had anticipated. As a result, the insurance money allocated for Obamacare will run out much more quickly if Millennials choose not to opt-in, thus bringing down the program.
While the administration isn’t releasing numbers of how many young adults have signed up for healthcare, of the six states that have released data just 28 percent of enrollees would fit into the ‘young and healthy’ demographic the system is dependent upon to function properly.
Obama and Co. has known for some time now that young adults, in particular “young invincibles” – healthy, single Millennials – would be the hardest demographic with which to market the Affordable Care Act. The Department of Health and Human Services, as well as several state-based markets, has gone out of its way to promote the exchanges to younger Americans through celebrity endorsements, “Funny or Die” skits and even hilarious “Brosurance!” campaign posters, but has come up rather empty-handed in those pursuits. If anything, they’re just undermining Millennials, thus making them even less eager to sign up for the expensive Cadillac plans offered by the exchanges at a time when many of them are more concerned about how they’re gonna pay next month’s rent than whether they have health insurance.
The administration’s ongoing excuse that many young Americans are just waiting until the last-minute to enroll for healthcare – like they do with many other aspects of their lives – can only go so far, and with thedeadline for signing up to get coverage on Jan. 1 now just weeks away, time is running out on this excuse – pun intended.
Economist and former Congressional Budget Office head Douglas Holtz-Eakin put it best when he said, ”If [young adults don’t] sign up at all then the so-called exchanges are filled with very high-costs patients and the government will have to subsidize them extensively. We’ll end up with a government-run program for very sick people, something we’ve already had.”
And, as the Obama administration is quickly learning, it’s hard to sign people up for the Affordable Care Act if they don’t actually know what it is or that it exists in the first place.