Obamacare: America Says ‘Meh’
Religion & Liberty Online

Obamacare: America Says ‘Meh’

America has been underwhelmed by Obamacare. Beyond the website glitches and stories of waiting for hours to sign up, we can start assessing the actual program.

An April 8 Rasmussen poll finds only 23 percent of Americans call Obamacare a “success,” and 64 percent believe it will be repealed. the White House is in a tough spot; the program was built with the understanding that young people would flock to it, eager to snap up inexpensive health care plans. These purchases would help pay for the less-healthy and older enrollees. Young people would be paying their premiums, but since they don’t get sick as often, that money would be used for those who are typically less healthy. Those signing up, though, are tending to be older and sicker than expected:

People who signed up early for insurance through the new marketplaces were more likely to be prescribed drugs to treat pain, depression and H.I.V. and were less likely to need contraceptives, according to a new study that provides a much-anticipated look at the population that signed up for coverage under the new health care law.

The health of those who enrolled in new coverage is being closely watched because many observers have questioned whether the new marketplaces would attract a large share of sick people, which could lead to higher premiums and ultimately doom the new law.

Those who need these types of medications generally also need more visits to the doctor, more tests and generally, more medical care.

Susan Page, at USA Today, sat down with 11 Coloradans to talk about Obamacare. The group met six months ago, discussing their plans to enroll (or not) and what changes they expected to see for their own insurance. Then, the group reconvened just a short time ago.

27 year old Catherine Campbell was pleased with her experience. She didn’t think she’d be able to afford insurance, but said it was “doable.” Matt Wright, 32, chose a different path:

“It’s like a scale to me: What return do I get for my money?” he says. He doesn’t begrudge paying for child care for his 5-year-old daughter, who has health insurance through her mother, and he sees the need for car insurance because he’s on the road a lot for his job in real estate.

But after spending a half-hour on the Colorado website, he calculated that coverage would cost him $150 to $200 a month, while the penalty for the first year wasn’t likely to exceed $500. He decided to save his money and take his chances. “For me, knowing my family, my history, what I eat and what I do, it’s led me to wait,” he says, though it does mean putting off treatment for a bum shoulder.

Others in the USA Today feature that signed up were a 57 year old woman with diabetes and a 48 year old woman who previously had no insurance and hadn’t seen a doctor in over a year. The eleven Coloradans are a microcosm of the nation: younger, healthier people are “hedging their bets,” preferring to keep their money…money that Obamacare depends on for older, sicker citizens:

Three of the people around the table have pre-existing medical conditions that made it difficult for them to buy insurance in the past; all have signed up for coverage. Five of the people around the table are younger than 40 years old; four of them haven’t signed up. None of the four men in the group has enrolled.

That’s a potential problem. To keep premiums affordable and the system afloat, it needs to attract a fair share of the younger and healthier people who are likely to need the least medical care, as well as those older and sicker ones who are likely to need the most. In Colorado, 26% of those who signed up were young adults, 18 to 35 years old. Nearly half, 46%, were 45 to 65.

One could be generous and say it is far too early to tell if the Affordable Care Act is going to stand up to all the hype. It is clear that the White House has failed to attract the young people needed to hold the Affordable Care Act together; they just aren’t buying what Obama is selling when it comes to health care.

Elise Hilton

Communications Specialist at Acton Institute. M.A. in World Religions.