The Norman Transcript

October 2, 2013

Youth may determine success


The Associated Press

NORMAN — No one is invincible. But some people think they are.

Tulsa World Enterprise Editor Ziva Branstetter put her finger on one of the key challenges to the success or failure of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act — whether young, healthy people can be convinced that they are not immune from life’s hazards, and that they need to enroll in health insurance. If they don’t, the federal health care law’s financial underpinnings clearly won’t work.

There is evidence on both sides of that debate.

On one hand, 30 percent of young people don’t carry insurance. As a result, one in five uninsured Americans is a young adult.

A recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll shows that a quarter of the people surveyed who were between the ages of 26 and 30 agreed with the idea that they were healthy enough that they don’t really need insurance. The poll found similar results for people in the 18-25 age group.

On the other hand, Karen Pollitz, a senior fellow with the Kaiser foundation, said she doesn’t buy the logic that young people don’t enroll in health insurance because they feel invincible.

The real issue isn’t the psychology of the Millennials but the economics of how health insurance was sold and administered in the past, she argues.

Health insurance was too expensive for young people who were independent from their parents, and insurance companies kicked those who were not independent off their families’ plans at age 18.

Both of those issues are addressed in the Affordable Care Act: Young people can stay on their parents plans to age 26 and substantial federal subsidies are available to low-income people.

But there is still some cost to the young people, and convincing them to buy into the program is terribly important to the success or failure of the ACA.

The federal health care law guarantees market rate insurance will be available to people with pre-existing conditions. If those people don’t earn enough to pay for health insurance on their own, there are federal subsidies to help them pay for it.

So, you can bet that high-expense patients, the sick or soon-to-be sick will be flooding into the insurance pool. If those people aren’t balanced with low-expense patients — those young invincibles — the equation doesn’t work.

— Tulsa World