Feature

Obamacare: The Millennial problem

For the Affordable Care Act to succeed, millions of young, healthy people must buy insurance.

Liberals think “it’s safe to feel optimistic about Obamacare again,” said Ross Douthat in The New York Times. The White House is boasting that its bug-addled online health exchange is working at last, and that enrollment in health insurance plans is picking up speed. But this rosy scenario neglects the damage Obamacare’s disastrous rollout has done to the public’s perception of the program, and unless that perception changes, the law may yet fail. For the Affordable Care Act to succeed, millions of young, healthy people must buy insurance. Without the premiums of those young folks to cover the higher health-care costs of older, sicker Americans, premiums will rise and the law will enter a death spiral. A new poll finds that 56 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds disapprove of the law and that less than a third plan to sign up. No wonder, said Katrina Trinko in USA Today. If we Millennials don’t qualify by income for a government subsidy, we face monthly insurance costs of $260 and more. That’s a new bill we just can’t afford.

Don’t put too much weight on a few polls, said Ryan Cooper in WashingtonPost.com. “Young people will eventually come around on Obamacare.” Most uninsured Millennials do not make a lot of money, and few are aware that federal subsidies will cut their insurance bills to $100 a month or less. In coming months, insurance companies will spend hundreds of millions of dollars reaching out to the uninsured and educating them about the law’s benefits. Even a young “invincible” can get sick or injured and face ruinous medical bills. Some Millennials may choose to pay a penalty of $95 rather than buy insurance, said Matthew O’Brien in TheAtlantic.com,but most people comply with laws. When Romneycare went into effect in Massachusetts in 2007, young people initially didn’t sign up, but then flocked to enroll just before the deadline.

Still, there’s little doubt that the Obamacare rollout has damaged Democrats’ bond with Millennials, said Peter Beinart in TheDailyBeast.com. They entered adulthood with the Iraq War and the Great Recession souring them on Republicans and capitalism itself. But Obamacare’s botched launch and premium increases for the young have caused them to doubt Democrats and the welfare state. Poor Millennials. We’ve created a generation that “feels betrayed by big corporations and big government,” and “by deregulation and regulation.”

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