Despite the recent victory lap, Obamacare’s exchanges are still behind in enrolling the crucial, young demographic.
President Obama took the time on Thursday to announce the latest Obamacare sign-up numbers himself, touting 8 million Americans that have selected plans and boasting that 35 percent of enrollees are under the age of 35. Health and Human Services secretary Kathleen Sebelius made the same misleading statement, tweeting “GREAT NEWS! #8Million have signed up for private health coverage — 35% of those under age 35.”
State insurance officials, who met with the president just before his big announcement, repeated the statistic as well.
But when it comes the age group that actually matters — young adults between the ages of 18 and 35 — Obamacare still hasn’t garnered many sign ups. Just 28 percent of exchange enrollees are the highly targeted young invincibles, while the Obama administration said before open enrollment that exchanges would need at least 39 percent.
Despite a late surge in Obamacare sign-ups, the measure of young, healthy enrollees has barely budged since the first demographic information released in January revealed a measly 25 percent youth participation.
The 35 percent figure touted by the administration includes children under 18, not just the 18-to-35 bracket.
The Obama administration dedicated the last several months of open enrollment to pushing the health care law on young enrollees. After President Obama’s controversial spot on “Between Two Ferns” with Zack Galifianakis, Sebelius even bragged about a “Galifianakis bump” of new visits to HealthCare.gov immediately following the show.
But despite the comedy shows, the gifs and the ads promoting serious issues like keg stands and birth control, the Obama administration still hasn’t been able to sell its health care law to young enrollees. The reason young people aren’t signing up is the very reason the Obama administration so badly needs them to enroll: young, healthy adults simply won’t use what they’re paying for and will subsidize older and sicker people instead.
Even taking into account unavoidable emergencies, such as breaking an arm or getting in a car accident, historical data has found that young adults will on average spend less by paying for their health care out-of-pocket instead of paying for a health insurance premium every month. (RELATED: Study: Staying uninsured cheaper than Obamacare for young)
Despite the surge in sign0ups — the Obama administration still has not issued any numbers on those who have paid for plans — the health of the exchanges isn’t changing significantly thus far. Early reports on exchange customers have already found that they’re sicker than those in the private insurance market and using more specialized and more costly medications.
It’s still possible that Obamacare insurers will hike premiums in order to pay for the exchanges’ less healthy customers. And even worse, the administration has yet to reveal how many people have purchased their health care plans, which will likely take 15-20 percent off of that 8 million total.
It’s not clear whether young enrollees will pay their premiums at the same 15-20 percent rate or whether their proportion will grow or shrink once payment numbers are finally released.
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