ObamaCare Opponents Are Trying to Scare Young Adults

30 Sep

According to the most recent CNBC poll, if you ask people their feelings about “ObamaCare” you get different results than if you ask them about the “Affordable Care Act.” Namely, it seems that the use of “ObamaCare” is more polarizing. Asked about the Affordable Care Act, 22% of respondents reported a positive feeling, while 37% reported a negative feeling, and 41% reported being neutral or not knowing enough to have an opinion. By contrast, when you affix the President’s name to the law, there are fewer undecideds. Some 29% of those polled had a positive feeling towards ObamaCare, while 46% had a negative feeling towards ObamaCare, and 25% were either neutral or didn’t know enough to have an opinion. Somehow, that simple name change was all it took to inform them. But that’s not stopping opponents of ObamaCare from attempting to woo more of the public into their corner, and young adults are the latest target.

Healthy young adults are one of the groups that potentially lose out with the implementation of ObamaCare. The reason, of course, is that because of the individual mandate, many of these individuals who feel that they don’t need health insurance are going to be compelled to buy it or pay a penalty to the IRS. Either way, from their perspective, they are trading the option of spending nothing on health care to spending something. Arguments that they will benefit later in life, or that they just never know when they may end up seriously ill and in need of health insurance remain unconvincing to this demographic. On that latter point, this incredibly powerful narrative from Brian Beutler about how health insurance just might save your life–or at least save you from bankruptcy–is worth reading.

But the real menace is the notion of government intrusion in health care. The phrase “socialized medicine” has been misused for decades in an attempt to scare the public away from everything from national health insurance to Medicare, with obviously varying degrees of success. Now, a group called “Generation Opportunity” is using horrifying videos to scare young people away from ObamaCare, encouraging them to opt-out. They’ve made one for women and one for men:

There are a couple of major problems with their sales pitch. First, the insinuation that “Uncle Sam” (i.e., the government) is going to somehow be playing doctor is just blatantly untrue. Under ObamaCare, the insurance products people will purchase through the exchanges are private, and the doctors they will go to are also private. Government will not be telling your physician what he or she can or can’t do, and government certainly won’t be directly providing your health care. Second, “opting-out” is likely to cost young people more, not less. The reason? Individual coverage not obtained through the exchange is typically not good coverage. So, this campaign is effectively telling young people to pay a penalty to the IRS on top of paying for a less expensive, but also inferior insurance product on the individual market. Then, if they do end up needing health care, they’re likely to end up paying substantially higher amounts out-of-pocket for that care. For most young adults, this makes little sense. First, ObamaCare allows them to stay on a parent’s plan until age 26. After that, they will most likely have very affordable insurance options through their own employer. If not, they will have the option to get high-quality coverage through the exchange, and with federal subsidies, the cost of that coverage is likely to be rather low as actual data is demonstrating. Ultimately, this campaign seems like an effort to undermine the health insurance exchanges and diminish the effectiveness of ObamaCare, but you shouldn’t have to scare people to get them to agree with you.


Posted by on September 30, 2013 in Uncategorized


2 responses to “ObamaCare Opponents Are Trying to Scare Young Adults

  1. A Nony Miss

    October 2, 2013 at 8:49 am

    Thanks for this timely post. This is mystifying. Who are all these uninsured young people and how have they lived this far without getting insurance? Nowhere in my entire irresponsible life have I ever not had insurance. Although, when it comes to irresponsible, you really can’t top the people who are still trying to topple the ACA. I would suggest every Tea Party congressman who is leading this brigade give up thier paycheck during the shutdown and donate instead to cancer research, or directly to their state’s exchange.

  2. Shirie Leng, MD

    October 10, 2013 at 4:12 pm

    Brad – It’s true, and our colleague Bob Hackey thinks enrollment in the exchanges for young people will be slow. I guess in some ways it depends on your estimation of the quality and values of young people these days (wow I’m getting old if I have to write that). When I was 20 I knew in a vague way that I needed insurance but the larger implications to me and society if something bad had happened to me didn’t occur to me in any real way. Some young people are responsible that way, some aren’t. But if you weigh a once-a-year $100 IRS penalty against $125 per month payment for coverage with high deductibles, a fair number of people might decide it’s a bad deal. It looks like a lot of people are enrolling, or trying to enroll, in the exchanges, which is encouraging. I don’t know what the data are on the demographics of those enrollees. One commenter on one of our blogs pointed out that the long-term monetary implications have not been made clear to young people. I doubt the whole ACA will stand or fall on young people, but doomsday advocates say if healthy people don’t sign up the premiums go up for everyone else. Any good economists weighing in on this?


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