A Millennial figures out Obamacare

Millennial, David Barnes, writes in The Wall Street Journal why his generation chooses not to buy Obamacare: because they can’t afford it.

After Obamacare was passed in 2010, I wrote this post poking fun at how the 2008 campaign promise to solve the problem of the uninsured (to attract their vote) was solved by making it illegal not to buy insurance.

I think, like most people, they envisioned the solution would be to make insurance so affordable that everyone would choose to buy it.

David Barnes’ op-ed helps close the loop. It only took 6 years for someone to figure it out. He explains:

The administration has targeted my generation to sign up for ObamaCare for one reason: We’re healthy. The health-insurance companies selling plans on the law’s exchanges need us to pay a pretty penny in premiums without using much medical care. We’re supposed to subsidize the system so that it stays afloat. That was the plan, anyway. It fell apart when we didn’t sign up in droves like the White House expected.

Since ObamaCare’s implementation three years ago, the percentage of enrollees under 34 has remained steady every year at about 28%. According to the Census, some 16% of Americans between 25 and 34 have opted to remain uninsured, which is 71% higher than the uninsured rate for 45- to 65-year-olds.

It turns out that Obamacare didn’t make not buying insurance illegal enough (bold added):

Either way, the White House is doomed to fail. Young Americans are avoiding ObamaCare because it isn’t a good deal for us.

Last week I visited Healthcare.gov to scout out the most-affordable health-insurance plans I could buy for next year. In Arlington, Va., where I live and work, the cheapest option is $200 a month with a $6,850 deductible. Across the Potomac in D.C., the premiums are slightly cheaper but the deductible is still sky-high.

My experience isn’t unique. ObamaCare is plainly unaffordable for many young Americans. We’re at the start of our careers—and the bottom of the income ladder—so paying so much for something we likely won’t use makes little sense. The IRS penalty of $695 or 2.5% of our income is often cheap by comparison. We may be young, but we can do the math.

Incentives matter. When it’s cheaper to pay the penalty than to buy insurance, it’s not surprising what happens.


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