Millennials Jump Ship over Obamacare Bait and Switch
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The Fiscal Times
December 5, 2013

It took long enough for the demographic that will pay the most for Obamacare to finally figure it out. Now that the wealth transfer from younger and healthier adults to older sicker ones through Obama’s mandating of unneeded comprehensive insurance for the latter has become clear, millennials have not just steered clear of the health care exchanges – they’re steering clear of Barack Obama and the Democratic Party now, too.

For the past two months, Barack Obama’s approval numbers have slid for both his performance and his personal qualities. This week, the Real Clear Politics average of his overall approval rating dropped below 40 percent for the first time in his presidency.  Until now, Obama could count on younger voters for the activism, enthusiasm, and support of his agenda to ride out the rough political patches. That was in large part how Obama eked out a narrow win over Mitt Romney in 2012.

Related: Obama’s Second Term--Worse than George W. Bush’s?

A new poll from Harvard University suggests those days are over – and not just for Obama. As National Journal’s Ron Fournier reports from the survey’s findings a majority of those 25 and under in this survey of more than 2,000 would vote Obama out of office if they had the chance for a do-over.  Among the entire group, the President’s overall job approval sinks to 41/54, just about the overall national average.

The damage extends to more than just Obamacare, to be sure.  The NSA scandal has infuriated younger voters, who believed Barack Obama’s campaign rhetoric about changing the nature of government from his predecessor’s overreach. Fournier notes that “strong majorities of 18-to-29-year-olds oppose the government collecting information” from electronic communications of all kinds, an area where younger Americans undoubtedly feel more at home. 

When asked in general, 55 percent opposed all general surveillance on electronic communications, and the number increases to 61 percent when asked about collecting that data “from you.” Although the overall assessment of Edward Snowden is remarkably nuanced – 22 percent call him a hero, another 22 percent a traitor, and 52 percent are unsure – they are firmly opposed to the programs Snowden exposed.

Those surveillance activities only have a theoretical impact on the respondents.  Unfortunately for millennials, Obamacare is all too real in a personal way, and presents a huge impact on their finances. Prior to the passage of Obamacare – enthusiastically supported by this demographic while Obama continually promised it would lower premiums and not force people out of existing plans – younger adults could choose insurance that fit their healthier profiles.

They were free to select plans that covered potentially catastrophic conditions, such as hospitalization, while using pre-tax income to pay cash for the minimal services they would normally access. Many colleges and universities provided those kinds of options, only to have them cancelled as the Affordable Care Act’s mandates took effect.

Related: Why Millennials Are Obamacare’s Last Hope

Now, younger consumers who will largely only see a doctor for an annual wellness check and perhaps an acute-issue clinic visit have to pay higher premiums for comprehensive coverage they don’t need, and won’t use. Most of them will have to accept high deductibles just to keep those skyrocketing premium costs within reach – which means they will have to spend thousands of dollars out of pocket anyway before they see any new benefit from comprehensive coverage.  It’s a bad deal for younger and healthier consumers, but the flood of cash is needed by insurers to cover the expenses of older and sicker Americans who will flood into the risk pools.

Based on enrollment figures already released from federal and state exchanges, the age distribution for enrollees in private-insurer plans skews too old, at least so far. Kentucky, where Obamacare advocates have claimed their greatest success, only has 24 percent of enrollments among those under 35 years of age compared to 39 percent above 55. In order to keep premiums from spiking again in 2015, the percentage for younger enrollees has to be close to 40 percent to ensure enough funds coming into the risk pools.

Needless to say, the White House is desperate to get younger Americans to provide that rather regressive wealth transfer. This poll shows that they’re not likely to comply. Only 25 percent of the respondents are planning or leaning toward enrolling in private insurance plans, despite the fine that will be imposed for non-compliance. They can do math well enough to know that spending thousands of dollars on premiums and then more thousands on out-of-pocket deductibles for benefits they’re unlikely to access makes less sense than paying a few hundred dollars in fines and a cash price for the occasional clinic visit.

Related: Millennials—No Jobs, In Debt, Still Living at Home

They can always buy insurance later if they need more comprehensive coverage, thanks to the must-issue mandate being placed on insurers that drives the need for the premium revenues. If only 25 percent are even inclined to consider enrollment, the entire wealth-redistribution structure of Obamacare is at risk of collapse.

Obama wants to counter this with a sales pitch to younger voters, combined with a pivot of sorts to the economy – namely, a demand for a minimum-wage hike. Obama’s problem in this effort is his track record on sales pitches, as well as the demonstrable incompetence of his administration to manage his projects. Young voters bought all of those Obama lines about keeping your plan if you like it, and lower premiums for all. They are not likely to fall under that swoon again when the bills are now coming due each month for the betrayal Obama provided in place of his promised Utopia.

And it’s not just the President who needs to worry about this. In a demographic that usually skews sharply Democratic, the partisan affiliation gap has closed nine points, 33/24. Among those 25 years of age and younger, it’s down to six points in the Harvard poll. Across the whole survey, more align themselves with conservatives than liberals (37/33, 26/22 without leaners). Only half of the survey say they will definitely or probably vote in the 2014 midterms.

Losing their traditional demographic edge would be a disaster for Democrats, not just in votes but also in enthusiasm and activism. That’s what happens when the bill comes due on Obamacare, as younger Americans are increasingly discovering for themselves. 

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Political analyst Edward Morrissey has been writing and blogging since 2003. He is also a senior editor at Hot Air, part of the Townhall/Hot Air group of conservative publications, and hosts a weekly radio show in Minnesota.