The Conversation

Young Invincibles Face a Rude Awakening on Obamacare

Groups marketing for and against Obamacare are focusing their efforts on so-called "young invincibles." This AP story walks through some of the "Brosurance" ads we've all seen. It concludes with the perspective of 22-year-old student Mette Jensen:

Mette Jensen, a 22-year-old student, says she supports "Obamacare" even though she signed a petition against it.

"Well, why not. I love free stuff."

Mette is young enough to remain on her parents insurance for a few more years. So it is "free stuff" as far as she's concerned and why turn down free stuff?

But that will change. In four years when she truly becomes one of the "young invincibles," Obamacare won't look like free stuff anymore. It will look like a mandate forcing her to pay the equivalent of a starter car payment every month so she can buy a high deductible plan that won't really benefit her unless she becomes gravely ill.

The AP story also includes the story of Joshua Benson who has Type 1 diabetes and has had his pancreas removed. He's happy to have found a plan that only costs him $170 a month (another $200 is paid by the government). That's a good deal for someone with serious, ongoing health issues.

But of course most of the "young invincibles" are not like Joshua, they're more like Mette. The vast majority of this group will be paying that starter car payment for a car they will never use. Some of them may even become aware that was the plan all along. Obamacare works if about 38 percent of the people in the risk-pool pay in and barely use any services. This is how the government balances out all the older, sicker individuals and low income people getting Medicaid for free.

Young invincibles aren't going to decide whether or not to participate in this based on cheesy marketing ploys. Eventually, it's going to come down to the same kind of cost/benefit analysis people use for everything else. That means a lot of the young and healthy are going to sit this out, at least until the cost of refusing goes up substantially next year. Sooner or later the delusion that Obamacare is "free stuff" is going to be rudely replaced with a monthly bill.


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