Politics & Policy

A Roll of the Dice

Young people reject Obama’s gamble with their future; they prefer online casinos.

President Obama is back selling his health-care law with the manic intensity of a late-night-infomercial pitchman who knows that if he doesn’t move the product, it could be discontinued.

Here’s Obama aiming his comments at young people this Wednesday: “The product is good. It’s affordable. This is a big deal, to quote Joe Biden. And if you’re a student-body president, set up a conference on campus. If you’re a bartender, have a happy hour.”

But it’s the president who may need a drink after viewing the latest poll numbers on young people’s attitudes towards Obamacare. At the heart of the health-care law is the following premise: Enough young and healthy people will sign up for new health insurance through the government’s excuse for a website to provide enough income for insurance companies so the planned subsidies to older and sicker uninsured people can keep flowing.

About 40 percent of those who sign up for new plans will have to be under 35 for this cost-shifting scheme to work. If they’re not, then to avoid having everyone’s premiums start to dramatically spike upwards, Obama may have to bail out insurance companies, the least popular and least trusted private-sector provider of services outside of used-car lots. Explaining that to voters may be beyond anyone’s rhetorical gifts.

Obama’s most pressing problem is that young people aren’t buying into his sales pitch. A new Harvard University Institute of Politics poll of those under 30 years of age has devastating news for Obamacare.

Only 29 percent of uninsured young people say they will definitely (13 percent) or likely (16 percent) enroll in new plans via the exchanges. Despite an avalanche of public-service ads, thousands of “navigators” — glorified sales reps — recruited from Obama-friendly nonprofits, and numerous celebrity endorsements, the product isn’t moving.

The Harvard study found that the president’s job approval among young people is down to 41 percent. A full 57 percent of young people now oppose Obamacare, with those believing it will lower the quality of health care outnumbering those who think it will improve the quality by more than two to one. The Washington Post concludes:

Overall, the young simply don’t like what they see when it comes to Obamacare. Young people disapprove of the law, believe it will make them pay more for health care and on balance see it making their quality of care worse rather than better.

Obamacare is guaranteed to raise health-care costs for young people because it bans insurance companies from charging older people more than three times what they charge younger customers and prevents any premium variation based on the applicant’s health habits or record (other than smoking). And the subsidies that President Obama promises low-income young people so they can pay for insurance? They will be chump change compared with what others get.

Investor’s Business Daily summarized the facts:

A study by the 2017 Project looked at actual Obamacare premiums in the 50 largest counties in the U.S., and determined what subsidies would be granted for various age and income groups.

The average subsidy for a 21-year-old who makes $30,000 will be $454, the study found. But a 61-year-old in the same income bracket will get a subsidy of $4,018.

As a result, the 21-year-old will pay an average $1,635 in premiums for the Bronze plan, the cheapest, while the 61-year-old will pay just $867.

Young people will soon figure out that the tax penalty for not buying insurance starts at only $95 and can be collected only if the IRS can match records sufficiently to dock someone’s tax refund. Unless the enforcement penalties are ratcheted up severely, many young people will reject buying the lemon of a product Obamacare is offering them. It’s not as if many of them have a lot of discretionary income. As Katrina Trinko of NRO points out:

Young adults don’t have much going for them financially. Many college graduates are saddled with student loan debts. In 2013, student loan debts average $35,200, according to a May Fidelity survey. They’re facing a dismal job market.

In fact, there is some evidence that young people may be more willing to gamble with their future than to buy Obamacare. I live in New Jersey, where Internet gambling has just been legalized. Each of Atlantic City’s twelve casinos can operate up to five gambling websites so long as they screen out customers from out of state. Peggy Holloway, senior credit officer for Moody’s Investors Service, says the new sites will “appeal to a younger, more Internet-savvy demographic that might lack the discretionary budget to travel to one of Atlantic City’s 12 casinos.” And indeed, fifty thousand people signed up online for New Jersey’s gambling sites in the first week. That compares with 741 who signed up for Obamacare during all of October. Yes, the Obamacare website has been plagued with problems, but the disparity between the two programs is still eye-popping.

Dr. Jeff Singer, a surgeon and scholar at the Cato Institute, told Fox News that the gambling boom shows “younger and healthier people are making the decision — rightly or wrongly — that they are getting a better value by using some of their money, for example, in a gambling site than they are for buying health insurance which is covering things that they don’t need.”

You know President Obama’s infomercials for his health-care plan are flopping when they are tuned out in favor of the Internet-gambling barkers of Atlantic City. After all, the odds are stacked against you in both cases.

John Fund is national-affairs columnist for National Review Online.


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