Obamacare is such a glittering success that the president has unilaterally issued dozens of delays, suspensions, postponements and alterations to the law. It’s such a success that the administration continues to exaggerate and lie about its enrollment numbers. It’s such a success that its administrators have quietly expanded waiver eligibility to include virtually anyone who might want one, an acknowledgement that the law is a “hardship” unto itself. It’s such a success that Obama and his allies have openly abandoned the top three promises upon which it was sold. It’s such a success that only a small fraction of the previously-uninsured population has chosen to participate in it. And it’s such a success that outside advocacy groups, desperate to boost the paltry share of young, healthy sign-ups, have resorted to stunts and bribery (via John Ekdahl):
With roughly two weeks left in the open enrollment period for health insurance, some groups are trying to sell Obamacare to young people in terms they might actually understand: music, comedy, and cash. Young Invincibles, a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C. that is focused on the economic issues affecting young adults, launched a sweepstakes last week where it is awarding a cash prize of $1,200 — enough to potentially cover a year’s worth of health insurance premiums for a young adult — to people who download their health care app or submit a card in the mail. The contest runs through the fall, but by launching it now, organizers hope young people who download the app can use it to learn more about whether they qualify for financial assistance and where they should go to sign up….Young people are particularly lagging behind in other groups in signing up. So far, 25% of those who have selected private plans are between the ages of 18 and 34. Administration officials have said repeatedly that they expect young and healthy people to put off signing up for insurance until the last minute. So groups are getting creative with their approach in the final push.
The administration’s original target for this demographic was close to 40 percent — an outcome experts projected would be necessary to sustain viable risk pools. That goal, like others that won’t be reached, has since been discarded. The appeal of a $1,200 prize may seem intriguing for cash-strapped young adults, but let’s put that number into proper perspective. Let’s say you’re a healthy 30-year-old who is lucky enough to win the sweepstakes and claim the prize. That money, as the Marketwatch story says, is “potentially” enough to cover your first year’s premiums under Obamacare. Potentially. The real number could be significantly higher. Remember, the president just got through admonishing Latino families to ditch their cable or cell phones in order to scrape together enough money to afford Obamacare coverage — which he estimated could cost as “little” as $300 per month, or $3,600 per year. But expenses in that ballpark are precisely what compelled a young, urbanite Obama supporter to confess that he’d decided against obtaining coverage. Avik Roy’s in-depth analysis reveals how young people are likely to suffer the worst under Obamacare “rate shock,” even after factoring in taxpayer subsidies. CNN’s research shows that in the country’s largest metropolitan areas, many low-income young people won’t be eligible for any subsidies at all. Which brings us to the second element of Obamacare’s one-two wallet punch: Out-of-pocket costs. CBS News reports:
The Affordable Care Act is turning out to be less than affordable for some consumers. That’s because many of the plans carry huge deductibles, creating potential financial problems for middle-class consumers. Some “bronze”-level plans, the lowest level of coverage, carry deductibles as high as $12,700 per year for a family of four. The average individual deductible for a bronze plan is a whopping $5,081 per year, according to research provided to CBS MoneyWatch from HealthPocket, a technology company that ranks health care plans. What’s worse, that represents an increase of 40 percent from the average deductible for an individually purchased plan before the federal health care overhaul, according to The Wall Street Journal.
See, young people? You can win a $1,200 prize by signing up for the privilege of forking over five grand in out-of-pocket medical costs…before the coverage you’d be paying into even kicks in. Yes, there’s always the option to choose a plan with a lower deductible, but you’ll pay higher premiums in return. And what about those cheap “catastrophic” plans carved out for young consumers under Obamacare’s rules? First off, they’re not much cheaper than the “bronze” level options mentioned above. Then come the steep deductibles. Jim Geraghty ran through official GAO numbers to expose “the catch” back in January:
The administration insists most uninsured young people will be able to buy plans for less than $50 per month. Sounds great, right? The GAO offered statistics that show the catch. A non-smoking woman, age 30, buying the plan with the lowest possible premium in the state of Virginia would pay $564 per year, or $47 per month. Affordable! . . . Until you realize the deductible is $7,500. That’s how much she has to pay out of pocket before her insurance pays anything. And that’s a bargain compared to some other states…In Oregon, land of the music-video promotional campaign . . . that 30-year-old, non-smoking woman can get an insurance plan with a premium of just $52 per month! Of course, the deductible is $10,000. In Washington, D.C., it’s $53.50 for a plan with the same $10,000 deductible. In Maryland, she can pay $65 per month for that deductible. In Illinois, $68 per month. In Connecticut, $99 per month. In Maine, that same woman can pay $127 per month to enjoy a $12,000 deductible! In Minnesota, that same woman can pay a monthly premium of just $56.92 with a $15,000 deductible. What a bargain!
Click through for links to all of the supporting data. How “affordable” does any of that sound? And that doesn’t even cover any of the substantial premium hikes industry experts are predicting for next year, which the administration is downplaying, not disputing. So which is more persuasive, Millenials: Your bank accounts, or comedy bits starring multi-millionaire movie stars? Young people can either run some quick math and determine for themselves that the “Affordable” Care Act is nothing of the sort, or they can submit to the allure of Obamacare music video contest entrants like this:
“Hey bro, I was totally against paying up to $14,000 in deductibles and premiums for healthcare next year, but then I saw those dancers dressed up as hearts and changed my mind,” said nobody, ever. I’ll leave you with Megan McArdle explaining how young Americans are “killing Obamacare.”
UPDATE – A reader with ties to the insurance industry writes in to dispute some of Jim Geragthy’s GAO numbers excerpted above:
“ACA plans cannot have higher deductibles than $6,350 per person, and all catastrophic plans that I have seen have a $6,350 deductible with 100% covered thereafter. They are also much more expensive than the figures quoted in that paragraph. Sounds like the premiums quoted are from the 2013 pre-ACA plan versions. “
He also says that the “catastrophic plan” premiums he’s seen for, say, a 29-year-old woman in Virginia are closer to $170 per month, as opposed to the lower totals mentioned in the piece. Two points: (1) Obamacare does cap out-of-pocket costs, but that provision has been delayed (surprise!) until 2015 — likely due to the negative impact those caps are expected to have on premiums. (2) Let’s say those maximums do finally go into effect, and that premiums don’t rise even further (even though they will). Let’s run some math. Add the max deductible ($6,350) to monthly premiums ($170, for argument’s sake), and you’re looking at paying nearly $8,400 for healthcare. Here’s another option: Add the average bronze deductible ($5,100) to the premiums described by the healthy, liberal young man in the blog post linked above ($308/month). Obamacare tab: Nearly $8,800. “Affordable”?