Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Young Adults and Health Reform
No wise man ever wished to be young again.
Jonathon Swift (1667-1745), Thoughts on Various Subjects

Thoughts on young adults and their response to this health plan must weigh heavily on President Obama’s mind.   With the website  fiasco,  health plan cancellations,  and his unequivocal promise that people could keep their plans,   a youth-based crisis is emerging. 
The crisis centers on these questions:  Will the young (aged 18-34) enroll in ObamaCare?   Will Obama garner the 2.3 million young adults  he needs to sign up by March 31, 2014 for private plans  to keep premiums low for older folks, namely those aged 40 to 65, who are not on Medicare or Medicaid?   Or, instead, will the young and healthy swarm into Medicaid and avoid private plans  or take the $95 penalty rather than pay more money for government-endorsed plans with broad benefits?
How the young answer these questions may decide ObamaCare’s fate.   If they stay away in sufficient numbers,  they may cook the ObamaCare goose.  Their premium cash is needed to finance care for the rest of us.
What will the young do?  The faltering economy is cooking their own goose.   Across population groups, they have the highest rate of unemployment,  often over 15%. Jobs are in short supply, and more and more jobs  are part-time, partly due to ObamaCare policies  that encourage discourage full-time employment. Many  of the young  have staggering credit card and education debts.    Tuition costs are high. Financial aid is dwindling.  As a result of all of these things,   many of the young are going  back home to live with their parents or never leave.  They have been dubbed the “boomerang generation.”
And the wealth gap between the young and the old  is growing. 
An analysis of  2012 census data found  an average household headed by someone 65 or older has a net worth 47 times that of a household headed by someone under 35. While the median net worth for those 65 and older was over $170,000, the median net worth for households under 35 was roughly $3,600. While it makes sense that those who have lived longer have accumulated more, this disparity is much greater than it has been in the past. Even from 2005 to the present, this gap has approximately doubled.
The gap is not so wide between  the young and middle-aged and middle-class.   Those in the middle are suffering too,  with high unemployment, incomes shrinking by 10% or more,  with large numbers dropping out of the job market.
Besides,  the young and healthy often have other things on their mind,  like  having a good time,   dating,  buying a new care,  finding affordable housing,   eating out, or simply making ends meet.
The young may be asking themselves.   Why should I sacrifice myself economically on the altar of older people when they are doing better than I am?   Why should I pay for comprehensive health benefits of others when I’m perfectly healthy?  Anyway,  if something should happen,   I know I can go to any ER, and the hospital  is obligated legally to take care of me.
For Obama, responses of the the young  enrolling have not been encouraging( “Young Avoid New Plans,” November 5, Wall Street Journal).  Half of those who persevere  and fight their way through the healthcare.gov challenges , have average  age over 50, and many are 55 to 64 with health problems.   So far the young have chosen Medicaid over private plans. In Kentucky, less than 24%, including children , have been younger than 34.    And in Raleigh, N.C. at a health education event,  of the 100 attending,  not a single young person was sighted.    
It may be that the young may wait until the last minute to sign up, but then again, they may not. 
Young people overwhelmingly voted for Obama. But when their own money and  personal life style are involved,  this political support may not translate into enrolling  into ObamaCare-endorsed health plans.

Tweet:  Thus far,  nearly 5 weeks after healthcare.gov launch, few  of the young (18-24) have enrolled in health plans offered on health exchanges.

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