May 7 2013

Can the President Convince Young Men to Buy Over-Priced Insurance?

Carrie L. Lukas

It’s hard to know whether to laugh or cry when reading today’s Wall Street Journal piece by Ezekiel Emanuel, one of the President’s former health care advisors and a cheerleader for ObamaCare. 

He warns about the “inevitable” hiccups that will come in rolling out ObamaCare, though he seems to want Americans to be impressed that the government is taking on the impressive challenge of trying to reorder the entire health care system.  He dismisses the anticipated IT challenges with online enrollment as temporary, and instead focuses in on the bigger problem with enrollment.

Dr. Emanuel notes that—surprise, surprise—healthy young men may be reluctant to buy health insurance coverage, which has been made more expensive by government mandates that do absolutely nothing for them. 

It’s a point that ObamaCare critics have made endlessly.  Indeed, that’s a central problem with all the mandates—from the HHS mandate for first-dollar contraceptive coverage to rules forbidding insurance companies from offering prices that account for gender, age, and health status.  All this government intervention is a fancy way to shift costs from those who are using health care service—the old and the sick, in particular, but also women of child-bearing age—to those who don’t use much health care, namely, young, healthy men. The question now is if the young men will go along with the game and pick up the tab. 

Dr. Emanuel notes that President Obama is a popular guy with this group so thinks the President can cajole them into making an economically stupid choice to buy over-priced insurance in order to protect the President’s legacy. He thinks advertising during baseball games might also help. 

We’ll see, but color me skeptical.  And before Dr. Emanuel bets too heavily on this strategy, he may want to take a look at another article published in the New York Times that I found of interest. Here’s the bottom line:

…the United States has quietly surpassed much of Europe in the percentage of young adults without jobs. It’s not just Europe, either. Over the last 12 years, the United States has gone from having the highest share of employed 25- to 34-year-olds among large, wealthy economies to having among the lowest. 

So Dr. Emanuel has to bank on all these out-of-work or under-employed young men buying super-sized health insurance, with benefits they will never use, just for the good of the President or the idea of the sanctity of the social contract. 

And about that social contract, someday young Americans—who have plenty of time apparently, since so many are out-of-work—might stumble on a little data and discover that that social contract consistently gives young people like them the shaft.   

As Dr. Emanuel suggests it’s “crunch-time” and Americans need to be educated on what’s coming.  That's true. Young Americans deserve a little education and to understand that they are expected to bury the brunt of ObamaCare’s costs—along with the costs of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and that tgrillion dollar national debt that older generations accrued but have no intention of paying. 

Boys, it’s time to ignore the ads on during the baseball game, pick up some Ayn Rand, and consider if it’s time to shrug. 

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