Obamacare blitz: Can US persuade young 'invincibles' to buy health coverage?
Success of the Affordable Care Act could hang on whether about 2 million young and healthy Americans will buy coverage starting Oct. 1, thereby ensuring the viability of the insurance pools. It's a steep climb, made harder by Obamacare foes working to talk them out of it.
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Evan Feinberg, 29, is president of Generation Opportunity, a libertarian youth organization developing its own grass-roots campaign to send a different message about Obamacare.Skip to next paragraph
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"We're encouraging young people not to sign up for the exchanges because it's a bad deal," Mr. Feinberg says. "Fortunately that message resonates because people know a bad deal when they see it."
In particular, Feinberg notes that he can find 100 plans for himself with less-than-$100-a-month premiums on ehealthinsurance.com, a private online health insurance exchange. Critics say many of those plans don't offer coverage as robust as what's required under the ACA, but Feinberg says they cover what he needs.
Feinberg says his organization, which has 1.5 million Facebook fans, will be mobilizing on college campuses and sending field coordinators to target young professionals. (The group isn't saying how large its effort will be.)
In August, FreedomWorks and Young Americans for Liberty teamed up to announce a "Burn your Obamacare card" campaign: young adults who have made videos of themselves burning a symbolic Obamacare card, made to look like a Vietnam draft card, while saying why they oppose Obamacare.
"I'm burning my Obamacare card because I'm too busy paying student loans to pay for somebody else's health insurance," one of the video participants proclaimed.
'Affordable for me'
Some Millennials, especially those with what insurance companies call preexisting conditions, are thrilled about Obamacare. Lori Leonti, 27, a waitress at a P.F. Chang's in Providence, made a beeline for the HealthSource RI table at the farmers' market. She earns between $350 and $650 a week as a waitress, but spends $600 a month on antidepressant and anxiety prescriptions. She expects to receive tax credits and a plan that will include the cost of prescriptions.
"I'm very excited. I'm struggling with the bills now," Ms. Leonti says. Leonti and her mom came to the farmers' market specifically to visit the health exchange booth after hearing about the event on the radio.
John McColley, 25, from Tampa, Fla., in the past has applied for health insurance from BlueCross BlueShield Florida and Humana, but was denied after disclosing he's previously sought treatment for depression.
Mr. McColley, who is financially independent, makes $18,000 a year as a kindergarten teacher's assistant as he finishes a degree to become a teacher. On the Kaiser cost calculator, he learns he may qualify for subsidies that would enable him to pay about $65 a month for insurance. "I live off a strict budget and that's completely affordable for me," he says. "That's awesome."
Doom for Obamacare?
While reaching 18-to-35-year-olds is crucial for the initial rollout of the law, the consequences if young adults opt out of the exchanges likely won't pave the path to GOP dreams of repeal, some analysts say.
"I see no chance that the law is going to be repealed," Professor Jacobs of the University of Minnesota says, pointing to a bumpy rollout in early years for now-popular Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security before implementation kinks were ironed out.
Proponents of the law also point out that they have until March 31, 2014, when enrollment ends, to recruit young people, and premiums wouldn't rise until next year if too many young people opt out.
"You can think of it like World War I trench warfare," says Jacobs. "This is going to be a sustained grind. Opponents are very determined, but they are up against very large federal agencies. You have a vast number of people with enormous resources [in support of the law] and they will not stop."