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Why millennials still aren’t enrolling in Obamacare

David J. Phillip/Associated Press

David J. Phillip/Associated Press

Millennial enrollment in Obamacare continues to be low, which has caused the Obama Administration to begin a campaign intended to promote greater participation in the program among young adults, ages 25-34. The president will hold a “Millennial Outreach and Engagement Summit” at the White House on Tuesday to articulate the minutia of his plan, and he has already written letters to health insurance companies compelling them to seek out younger customers.

In a recent article for the Wall Street Journal, David Barnes said most millennials are opposed to Obamacare because they cannot afford to enroll in it. Barnes, who is the policy director of Generation Opportunity, noted that the Obama Administration is looking to enroll more millennials because they are healthy and unlikely to require insurance for chronic medical conditions like heart disease and diabetes.

“Since Obamacare’s implementation three years ago, the percentage of enrollees under 34 has remained steady every year at about 28%,” Barnes said. “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.”

Barnes argued that the low enrollment among young people means that Obamacare is not profitable, and in fact causes insurance companies to lose money. This is part of the reason why insurance plans under Obamacare are becoming increasingly expensive, and why so many companies have opted out of the program. (In my home state, New Hampshire, only one company provides insurance under Obamacare).

In addition to the summit, Obama has also begun a social media campaign, using the hashtag #HealthyAdulting to promote enrollment among young people. Barnes said the hashtag is condescending, particularly because enrolling in government-sponsored insurance is not necessarily a requirement for being a healthy adult.

Barnes also reminded his audience of the alarming incident in June during which President Obama declared that he would use the private taxpayer information of young adults who do not enroll in Obamacare in order to punish them. This is an ethically questionable declaration at best, given that Obama has little right to abuse taxpayer information in such a way.

Barnes then concluded that deductibles listed on the Affordable Care Act are simply too high for most millennials to pay.

“Last week I visited Healthcare.gov to scout out the most-affordable health-insurance plans I could buy for next year,” Barnes said. “In Arlington, Va., where I live and work, the cheapest option is $200 a month with a $6,850 deductible.”

Most millennials are just starting their careers, and simply cannot afford such high deductibles. Barnes argued that these premiums are so high that most millennials simply chose the IRS penalty over enrollment.

“The IRS penalty of $695 or 2.5 percent of our income is often cheap by comparison,” he said. “We may be young, but we can do the math.”

Regardless of how President Obama tries to promote Obamacare, young people will continue to opt out of the program. Most young people simply do not earn enough to justify enrolling in the program—it makes more sense for them to accept an IRS penalty instead. And for Obama to penalize young people for choosing the IRS penalty would mean he is punishing America’s youth for a bad situation that he created.


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