Young people have not been part of the political or media debate raging around health care reform, and the administration may have preferred it that way to avoid confronting the reality that healthy millennials will be paying the highest premiums of any group. Now, the White House and the Department of Health and Human Services are recruiting celebrities, athletes, and entertainers to launch a massive media campaign to convince healthy 18-34 year-olds to sign-up for health insurance and ignore the higher costs that they will be facing.
The pandering that is about to come raining down on media channels for healthy young millennials is a classic example of how politics is simply perception. The Affordable Care Act promises to be a revolutionary change in American public health that should be supported by millennials, but it is completely inappropriate for the administration to have ignored the real economic costs healthy millennials are going to have to bear. There has been no economic incentive given to millennials making more than $26,000 to support having to pay the highest premiums of any cohort, but employers have until 2015 before they get fined for not providing health insurance.
The 'Yes We Can' video from President Obama's 2008 campaign was hugely popular. Expect to see something similar regarding health insurance enrollment this fall.
The long-term positive impact of the Affordable Care Act could usher in the next chapter of American strength and ingenuity, but it is more likely to be another version of Social Security – a program that has an emphatically positive impact on the elderly but puts the Ponzi-esque burden of cost on the idea that enough young people will be able to support the program. Hardly anyone in the media or in politics is addressing this issue. Instead, the administration may even be banking on the ignorance of millennials to push their agenda through with glossy campaigning from popular celebrities.
The Affordable Care Act, derogatorily called Obamacare, could easily fail if the administration fails to convince enough millennials to sign up for health insurance. The provisions of the Affordable Care Act will expand the quality of health coverage for a large number of low-income, elderly, and patients with pre-existing conditions but the cost of this expanded coverage will be paid by 2.7 million millennials. The Wall Street Journal summarizes this situation, explaining that “if flocks of relatively healthy 20- and 30-somethings buy coverage, their insurance premiums will help offset the costs of newly insured older or sicker people who need more care. If they don't, [health insurance and healthcare] prices across the U.S. could spike.”
This issue is only now gaining traction in the media, especially after the Government Accountability Office issued a report warning of the “rate shock” that healthy young Americans will be experiencing next year.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s subsidy calculator, a 30-year-old earning $35,000 per year would have to pay $2,739 annually for a cheap “bronze plan” on the new health insurance exchanges, which is more expensive than any state today. The administration has confronted criticism of the Affordable Care Act with the promise of lower premiums and subsidies, but those do not apply to millennials. Supporters of the law would mitigate concernsby saying that even though health insurance is cheaper today for the young and healthy the coverage is spotty and inconsistent. The Affordable Care Act will expand services offered, especially in preventative care, making the increase worthwhile for millennials in the long term.
Of the 11.6 million uninsured 18-34 year olds, convincing 2.7 million to swallow higher costs is going to require creativity and zeal on the part of the media campaign, especially since the penalty in 2014 for not being insured is the higher of 1% of income or $95. Liberal economist and health care reform supporter Uwe Reinhardt tells The Washington Examiner that this is a “major design flaw in the law” because “the penalties for disobeying that [individual] mandate are so low, many young, healthy people may prefer to pay the penalty and remain uninsured until they fall ill, when they can get community-rated coverage.” If the Republicans wanted to improve their standing with 18-34 year old voters, they could capitalize and campaign on this issue before the White House’s spin machine gets into full swing.
The youth vote and celebrity campaigning heavily influenced President Obama’s presidential campaigns. Therefore, it is not surprising that the administration will be attempting to entrench its message in slick, celebrity-infused packaging to hide the real costs on millennials. The L.A. Times reports that White House is hosting strategy discussions with actors Jennifer Hudson, Kal Penn and Amy Poehler; Mike Farah of the website Funny or Die; Daniel Kellison of YouTube Comedy; "Royal Pains" sitcom creator Andrew Lenchewski and songwriter Bruce Roberts, and representatives for Oprah Winfrey, Alicia Keys, Bon Jovi, the Latin Recording Academy and the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. The New York Times reports that the NFL has already turned down the administration in its attempts to recruit athletes to promote health care enrollment.
Millennials are still disturbingly unaware of this impact and the media bandwagon is finally catching on. Some news organizations like the Wall Street Journal have already begun their own coverage of the millennials, interviewing youth in Oregon, calculating how much a person would be paying for health insurance earning up to $35,000, and creating this interactive video to explain the impact of health care.
The Kaiser Family Foundation has also produced the following video to help explain and simplify the healthcare act on the general public:
Regardless of these, the reality remains that no one is advocating for millennials. The same group that has been affected by the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, who may never see Social Security benefits, and is relentlessly accused of being lazy is now potentially going to be the savior of health care reform.