Obamacare youth targeting could violate Age Discrimination Act

Patrick Howley Political Reporter
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The Obama administration’s plan to target young people with a public-relations campaign on the benefits of enrolling in Obamacare appears to violate the federal Age Discrimination Act.

The Obama administration reportedly plans to roll out “campaign-style demographic targeting” to encourage younger, healthier people to enroll in the Affordable Care Act and effectively balance Obamacare exchanges, which will initially serve primarily older people closer to death and would drive up health care rates under the law. The administration hopes that 18-to-30-year-olds will comprise 2.7 million of the 7 million people expected to sign up for Obamacare exchanges in the first six months of the law’s implementation.

“Administration officials have a slideshow depicting their ability to draw detailed neighborhood-level maps that pinpoint which parts of Los Angeles or Dallas contain large pockets of uninsured young people. Since initially they need to reach only a minority of uninsured youth, the most cost-effective approach is to target these dense clusters,” Slate reported based on information presented at a July briefing the Obama administration provided to compliant journalists.

But this demographic targeting could violate the Age Discrimination Act of 1975, which states that no program that receives federal money can discriminate with respect to age.

“…no person in the United States shall, on the basis of age, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under, any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance,” according to the Age Discrimination Act.

The administration’s plan to target younger participants, about half of whom will be eligible for subsidies, would at least initially have the discriminatory effect of not equally promoting subsidized health care to older participants whose participation would not be as favorable for Obamacare’s convoluted apparatus.

Some observers, however, are skeptical that this line of reasoning will carry legal weight.

“Maybe in some general sense there’s a violation. But you’ve already seen the administration directly violate the law. Delaying the employer mandate for a year is the most recent example,” American Enterprise Institute health policy scholar Joseph Antos told TheDC. “If the administration can violate clearer laws, then violating something that is at best second-hand to this act should be relatively easy.”

Antos noted the unlikelihood that an Age Discrimination Act case could be tried successfully in the period before Obamacare’s implementation.

The White House and the Department of Health and Human Services did not return requests for comment.

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Patrick Howley