Millennials: Obamacare for Thee, But Not for Me
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The Fiscal Times
December 11, 2013

Remember all those stories last week about how Millennials were abandoning Obamacare? Well a new survey out this morning comes to a slightly different conclusion: Millennials love Obamacare, just not if they’re the ones signing up for it.

A poll of 1,013 adults conducted in mid-November took an interesting angle on the question of public perception of President Obama’s signature domestic initiative. Rather than asking people if they were planning to sign up themselves, they asked respondents to put themselves in the shoes of a theoretical, average American.

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If you were a 45-year-old making $50,000 per year, the survey asked, would you rather pay $3,000 a year for one of the policies offered on the healthcare exchanges, or pay a $400 fine?

Among all age groups, it was the so-called “young invincibles” who were most likely to opt for the insurance policy, with 65 percent saying they would buy in. Among respondents aged 30 and over, by contrast, only 57 percent said they would buy insurance. (While the overall survey sample size was 1,013, the number of 18-to-29 year-olds was only a fraction of the total, meaning that the statistical strength of that particular finding is not as strong as the overall survey’s 3.6 percent margin of error.)

“We hear a lot about the young invincibles,” said Laura Adams, senior analyst for insuranceQuotes.com, which sponsored the study. “But is what they say they would do at 45 indicative of what they will do at age 18?”

It’s hard to say, she said, “It may not apply.”

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That’s a significant concern, because even if they think Obamacare is a great idea for older Americans, the success of the health care exchanges is dependent on the Millennials themselves signing up while they are still young. The influx of young and healthy consumers into the market will, in effect, subsidize the older, less healthy segment of the population.

The survey, produced other findings as well.

Unsurprisingly, there was a stark political divide between those who thought the hypothetical 45-year old should buy coverage, and those who thought paying the fine was a better option.

Among Democrats, 74 percent said that in the hypothetical consumer’s position they would buy health insurance. Among Independents 56 percent said they would purchase insurance, but only 40 percent of Republicans thought it was a good idea.

The survey also found that Americans are broadly ignorant about specific elements of the law.

Adams said nearly 80 percent of respondents were unaware that parents are liable for penalties for each child under the age of 18 who remains uninsured. Six in 10, she said, incorrectly believe that senior citizens over the age of 65 are exempt from penalties.

Follow Rob Garver on Twitter @rrgarver

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A longtime reporter on the intersection of the federal government and the private sector, Rob Garver is National Correspondent, based in Washington, D.C. He has written for ProPublica, The New York Times and other publications.