Obamacare Needs to Be Fixed to Win Over Millennials

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Millennial stock blogger and trader Rachel Fox, 20, is asked to take a picture with a fan after speaking to a group of investors, tech nerds and stock traders at StockTwits annual Stocktoberfest in Coronado, California, on October 14. Andrew Clark writes that even a pair of skinny jeans and hipster glasses won’t make Obamacare in its current form and at its current price appealing to millennials. Mike Blake/reuters

Millennials are infamous for thinking the world revolves around us. When it comes to the Affordable Care Act, we’re right.

The Affordable Care Act depends on younger, healthier people enrolling to balance the cost of older, sicker enrollees. The math simply doesn’t work without us.

That’s why President Obama and his administration are currently doing everything they can to get us to sign up for the law. This includes advertising open enrollment on Twitch.com, a gaming website and even redesigning Healthcare.gov to make it work better on a phone web browser.   

But none of these ploys can actually make the Affordable Care Act a good deal for my generation.

Regardless of how it’s marketed, the Affordable Care Act’s problems ultimately come down to numbers. Those numbers don’t look good for people in their 20s and 30s.

The federal Department of Health and Human Services, responsible for administering the Affordable Care Act, recently relayed the bad news. They reported on October 24 that the average monthly premium for a 27-year-old on the federal exchange system would go up 25 percent in 2017.

Talk about a bad deal. In some states the costs are particularly astounding. Millennials in Arizona, my home state, have it worst—monthly premiums there are expected to go up by a stunning 116 percent, on average.  

For those who have to pay these hikes, it’s plainly unaffordable—especially if you’re a young person in the early stages of their career, looking for a job, or paying off student loans.

A growing number of the Affordable Care Act’s champions are admitting this reality. Progressive columnist Matt Yglesias concedes that “remaining uninsured is a reasonably good financial option for many younger or healthier Americans.”

And the CEO of health-insurance company Aetna—which is trying desperately to sell its plans to millennials—now says that “as the rates rise, the healthier people pull out because the out-of-pocket costs aren’t worth it.”

They’re basically saying that federal efforts to target us for health insurance enrollment are doomed to fail—the law’s plans are just too costly.

And cost isn’t the only reason we’re not flocking to the federal insurance exchanges. Our generation values choice and flexibility, but what we’re finding through the Affordable Care Act offers neither.

More than one-fifth of people who look for insurance on the exchange system will find only one insurance company servicing their area through 2017. And then there are narrow networks that seriously crib our options of doctors and specialists.

Of course, the Obama administration doesn’t think high costs or limited choices should deter millennials. President Obama and other officials promise that rising premiums will actually be manageable, thanks to federal subsidies offered on the exchange. If you listen to how they put it, it’s like the government practically giving insurance away for free.

But there’s no such thing as free health insurance. Young people who don’t qualify for subsidies will bear the brunt of the higher premium costs. And over half of people who received subsidies in 2014 had to pay some of them back on their tax bill.

Even if subsidies could paper over our premium bills, there are other ways the Affordable Care Act works out to be a bad deal for millennials. Just as monthly premiums are rising, so too are deductibles. With these rising, millennials will have to fork over thousands of dollars—as high as $7,150—before insurance starts covering the costs of their health care.

Millennials can’t afford such high bills for insurance coverage. It doesn’t matter how much lipstick they apply to this pig—even putting it in a pair of skinny jeans and hipster glasses won’t make the Affordable Care Act more appealing.

President Obama and the law’s defenders realize this. In a recent Florida speech urging young people to enroll in the Affordable Care Act, he didn’t talk much about the law’s high costs. Instead, he treated getting health insurance as a civic duty. “The more young and healthy people like you who do the smart thing and sign up, then the better it’s going to work for everybody,” the president said.

If advertising on popular websites or creating mobile enrollment apps won’t work, trying to guilt us into buying insurance won’t either.

Millennials need insurance coverage that fits our particular circumstances and means, but the Affordable Care Act doesn’t offer anything of the sort. If the federal government wants our generation to get covered, they should start by finding ways to truly reduce the cost of insurance coverage in the long-term. That’s the kind of insurance that should be able to sell itself.

Andrew Clark is the executive director of Generation Opportunity.