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September 23 2016

ObamaCare’s Next Millennial Push

Patrice L. Onwuka

It’s almost that time again. Time for millennials to be hounded by the Obama Administration into signing up for a bad deal.

The 2016 open enrollment season for ObamaCare will kick off right after Halloween and run through the end of January. Recruiting millennials into ObamaCare is a top priority for the Obama Administration, so they announced new tactics to push uninsured young people to sign up. Will they give out mason jars, host electronic dance music concerts and craft-beer tasting events at trendy bars or push ads featuring young people in beards and skinny jeans? Not likely this time.

The tactics are different this time. They plan to send out letters scaring uninsured Americans with the prospect of an increased tax penalty, hounding emails before key enrollment dates, and follow-up emails to remind enrollees to finish their applications.

The Administration will also partner with popular services such as Lyft which will offer discounts on rides for young people to travel to enrollment events where they can get help signing up for ObamaCare.

The way Administration officials are talking, you’d think they cracked the code on reaching young people:

"With these steps, we're going to start our open enrollment strong," said Sylvia Burwell, secretary of the U.S. Health and Human Services Department, which oversees Obamacare. "And we're going to leave our marketplace stronger" for people in the future, she added.

They’ve tried splashy ads, gimmicks, expensive ad buys, and over-the-top events and none of that worked. We’ll still probably see a little of that, but they seem to be taking a simpler approach.

Promoting the financial costs of remaining uninsured is the stick that the Obama Administration wants to use to replace the carrot to prod young people unto ObamaCare. The penalty for not carrying coverage is $695 per adult and $347.50 per child or up to 2.5 percent of household income. That is up from $325 to $695 per person. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the average 2016 penalty will be $969 per uninsured household.

Nearly half (45 percent) of those who paid the penalty for not carrying coverage in 2014 where under 35, a significant number. Young people are choosing the penalty perhaps because it’s cheaper than buying into plans that have high premiums, high out-of-pocket costs, and high deductibles.

This demographic is critical to the success of ObamaCare, because young, healthy Americans are still needed to subsidize costs for sicker, older Americans. It’s because young people have chosen to sit out ObamaCare coverage that the costs for providing healthcare coverage have increased. As a result, instead of continuing to absorb deficits, insurance providers such as Aetna, UnitedHealth, and Humana have dropped or are scaling back their participation in ObamaCare. In many states, the lack of competition – one of the selling points for Obama’s experiment with the healthcare industry – has led to monopolies.

Targeting millennials yet again is the definition of insanity, though. In January we reported that the Obama Administration was making a last-ditch effort to get young Americans to sign up. The gimmicks of the past from ads glorifying sex hookups and binge drinking to pajama boy didn’t work because they played on the worst stereotypes of young people. They did nothing to demonstrate the value of ObamaCare for a young person and that’s because the value isn’t there. It’s cheaper to take a tax hit once in the year than to face increased healthcare costs all year round.

Young people will continue to forgo coverage, especially ObamaCare coverage. Had ObamaCare and the technology behind ObamaCare worked, the story may have been different, but everything about ObamaCare is bad for our generation and no amount of marketing can change that.

Independent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
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