Young people aren’t buying Obamacare

PeopleYoungObamacare “only works … if young people show up.”

 That’s from former President Bill Clinton in a recent MSNBC interview.

 It’s why Obamacare supporters and government agencies are trying everything from sports advertising to video contests to get young people in the game.

But will those millions of Millennials show up and sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act?

A recent Reuters poll found Obamacare may not attract enough young people to keep costs low for others, despite a headline that asserts the opposite:  “Poll shows healthy young adults may keep Obamacare afloat.”

The conflict between headline and data represents a collision between the hopes of survey respondents and economic logic.

The poll found that a little more than a third of young adults in its survey had tried and failed to purchase health insurance in the past. It also found that a third hoped to be able to buy health insurance now.

Reuters figured if just half of them do so, “the White House would easily meet its goal of getting 2.7 million young adults — out of about 16 million uninsured 19-to-29-year-olds —  to buy Obamacare insurance for 2014.”

This group couldn’t afford health insurance before, and Reuters never bothers to explain how they’ll afford it when it gets more expensive.

Monthly premiums under Obamacare will go up for young people in all 50 states, according to a study released Thursday by the center-right American Action Forum. Premiums will average more than $187 per month in 2014, up from $62 per month in 2013, a 202 percent increase, the study said.

Several Millennials told us why they won’t bother to sign up.

“An entire generation is being turned into a part-time workforce” because of Obamacare, said 22-year-old Patrick Richardson, a senior at the University of Toledo in Ohio who considers himself fortunate to have health insurance through his employer.

“When you do the math, it’s cheaper to pay the penalty, but that’s not the way the system was designed. It counts on young people enrolling, but young people don’t want any part of it,” he said.

Several people said they would rather cough up the $95 penalty in the first year for being uninsured than pay hundreds  of dollars each month in premiums for Obamacare.

“If we weren’t covered on our parents’ health insurance, my friends and I would pay the fine rather than pay for the higher cost of health insurance,” said Keith Leslie, a 23-year-old graduate student at Florida State University in Tallahassee still covered by his parents’ health plan.

The penalty for not buying insurance jumps to $700 in 2016.

“In order to offset the high costs associated with insuring the elderly, premiums for the healthiest segment of enrollees, those between the ages of 18 and 49, will need to increase,” the American Action Forum study found.

But with those kinds of health-care costs, 23-year-old Joshua Trujeque, a senior at the University of New Mexico, says risking going uninsured seems the best option.

“That’s why I’m very careful,” Trujeque said with a laugh.

Paul Winfree, a former policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation, did a video explaining some of the problems young people face in the new age of Obamacare.

But the biggest concern for Millennials is the unknown.

“There’s a disconnect right now. I’ve talked with quite a few young entrepreneurs, and everybody is feeling the same way,” said Brooke Parish, director of the Pulse, the Young Professionals Network in Appleton, Wis., which serves some 200 young professionals in the region.

“We don’t know enough about it,” she said.

“For me personally, I’m concerned about how much my costs are going to go up,” Parish said. “Am I going to have to pay more?”

About the author: Kathryn Watson is an investigative reporter with Watchdog.org’s Virginia Bureau, and can be reached at katie@watchdogvirginia.org, or at (571) 385-0773. Will Patrick, Matt Kittle, Chris Butler and Maggie Thurber contributed to this report.