Let’s really talk about Obamacare

OFA Healthcare for the Holidays

This month, I received an email with the subject line “How did the talk go?” After a moment of panic that I was supposed to have a serious talk with someone and hadn’t, I clicked to find an email from Organizing for Action. Addressing me as “Friend,” Organizing for Action wanted to check on me — making sure that I had found time to talk about health care with my friends and family over the holidays and asking me to report back on how the conversation went.

Not only did Organizing for Action launch a “Health Care for the Holidays” campaign with detailed instructions on how to have a talk with Millennials about enrolling in ObamaCare, but now it wants a status report on my progress?

ObamaCare supporters are sounding a little desperate to get Millennials on board for ObamaCare. And the latest enrollment numbers show why. A week ago, the Department of Health and Human Services released demographic data revealing that only 24 percent of those who signed up for an exchange before Dec. 28 were between the ages of 18 and 34. Only 24 percent.

But, according to a White House briefing, almost 40 percent of the seven million people officials hope will enroll in the first year must be between the ages of 18 and 35 for the marketplace exchanges to work properly. The system depends on younger, generally healthier people to bear more of the cost of coverage of older, generally sicker Americans.

Only two jurisdictions, Massachusetts and the District of Columbia, had youth enrollment of greater than 30 percent, while Arizona, Maine and West Virginia have a particularly long way to go with only 17 percent of enrollees in this demographic.

On a conference call with reporters, Nancy Delew, the acting Health and Human Services secretary for planning and evaluation, said that the administration expects younger adults are just waiting until the end of the enrollment period to sign up.

Yet a recent poll suggests that young people aren’t just being lazy and putting off signing up for ObamaCare. According to a national poll conducted by Harvard’s Institute of Politics, 57 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds disapprove of ObamaCare.

The Obama administration needs to linger on that for a moment: Young Americans disapprove of ObamaCare. And there is a good reason. Young Americans are being asked to pay too much for coverage that most won’t need. That’s a flaw that is difficult to hide, no matter how glitzy, high-tech or personal the marketing strategy.

But that doesn’t mean that the Obama administration is going to give up marketing to Millennials.

Next month, for example, the administration is buying ads to air during the Olympics and Feb. 15 has been deemed National Youth Enrollment Day. Last year, the administration tried recruiting the NFL to promote ObamaCare, convened a meeting at the White House of celebrities to recruit them to sell ObamaCare and even convinced People magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive” to tweet about enrolling.

Young people don’t just need to be marketed to more. They should reject these overtures.

The White House ought to take a break from talking to Millennials about the supposed benefits ObamaCare and instead do a little listening. Officials will likely hear the many reasons why young Americans are rejecting the government program. Millennials, for example, are wrestling with high levels of unemployment and underemployment. And they resent being stuck with increased premiums.

Perhaps that’s the conversation I should report back to Organizing for Action. The group may not want to hear it, but it’s what many Millennials are actually saying about ObamaCare.

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