Affordable Care Act Not So Affordable for Idealistic College Kids  

Selling a brand-new product is hard, even if you’re the President of the United States. Well okay, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (shorthand, ACA or “ObamaCare”) isn’t brand new anymore, but it’s taken until now for the law’s effects to really kick in – and the results are giving the Obama Administration a difficult time with its sales job.

Earlier this year, it was revealed that only one health insurance company in Washington State will lower its premiums in the coming year. This isn’t surprising, given the calculations. The nonpartisan Society of Actuaries (SoA) reports that health insurance costs will rise by 14 percent in the Evergreen State. And this is actually lucky: The same SoA report reveals that our neighbors in Idaho will see costs rise by 62 percent, while seven other states will see premiums rise by more than 50 percent. In all, only five states are expected to see healthcare costs decrease under the ACA.

This means I shouldn’t have been shocked when I found out that the Harvard Institute of Politics found that 56 percent of 18-to-29-year-old Americans disapprove of ACA. I was shocked because this was a bracket that Barack Obama won by a roughly 2-to-1 margin in both 2008 and 2012. However, now that he doesn’t need to run for re-election, it’s the perfect time for reality over his signature healthcare law to set in.

And that reality means that younger people need to step up and pay for the ACA if it’s going to work. ObamaCare’s success depends on younger, healthier people signing up to support the sick and elderly. And so far, it hasn’t been happening.

Part of it is the law itself. One of the ACA’s most heavily championed provisions allows enrollees to stay on their parents’ health insurance plan until age 26, meaning that people who are able to will delay buying insurance until that age.

Another reason for them is the maze of services that the ACA must provide. Healthcare.gov, the ACA’s hub of information on the internet, lists the services that health insurance plans under the ACA must provide – but don’t think that just because you’re paying for these services means you’ll be receiving them. Thanks to the ACA, young adults will pay for colorectal screenings (which aren’t required to be covered for people under 50), single enrollees and childless couples will have to pay for pediatric services, and I’ll have to pay for tobacco counseling even though I’d rather clean a bathtub with my tongue than take up smoking or chewing.

These new services also help explain some of those price increases. Reason magazine’s Peter Suderman indicted both the new range of services as well as the law’s medical loss ratio (MLR) regulations, which prohibit insurers from spending more than 20 percent of their revenue on administrative costs. This sounds noble (paperwork is one reason why healthcare is expensive to begin with), but, as Suderman writes, this doesn’t take into account the fluctuation in the number of insurance claims from year to year, which affects administrative costs. Since the MLR rules set an inflexible standard, insurance companies have an incentive to protect themselves during higher-claim years by raising premiums.

Commentator Bernard Goldberg has written that the team behind the ACA “has always figured that young people will ‘do the right thing’” – that is, enroll into the ACA even if it’s a bad deal for them. But, he goes on to state, “even young, loyal idealists have their limits. They’ll ‘do the right thing’ until there’s a price to pay.” This was something that the architects of ObamaCare didn’t foresee when designing the law. It leaves me wondering when they’ll admit that they made a mistake pushing for it in the first place.

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