New US health law needs youth to sign up

January 1, 2014 by Kelli Kennedy

Healthy young adults are so important to the success of the U.S. health care overhaul that takes effect Wednesday that both supporters and critics are spending millions to reach them with racy ads, social media campaigns and celebrity endorsements.

For the Affordable Care Act to work, insurers need their participation to offset the costs of covering older, sicker Americans. If enough decide not to buy through state or federal marketplaces, it could throw off the market's equilibrium and cause insurance rates to rise dramatically the following year.

Federal officials haven't released detailed demographic information on who's enrolled so far, so it's not clear how many young people have signed up for coverage.

The law is the signature legislation of President Barack Obama's time in office, and it has been bitterly contested by opposition Republicans. The U.S. has been the only major developed country without a system, and the overhaul was supposed to change that by providing coverage to millions of people. It's not a centralized, government-run insurance system as in Britain, instead penalizing people if they don't participate by buying coverage from private insurers or signing up for coverage under existing federal programs.

At the same time, insurance companies will no longer be able to turn away people in poor health.

A poll by Harvard's Institute of Politics shows about 40 percent of people between the ages of 18 and 29 are undecided about whether to sign up, with the rest split fairly evenly between those likely to enroll and those who probably won't.

The survey of 2,000 was conducted from Oct. 30 to Nov. 11, after the first month of enrollment on the exchanges and when sign-up problems were at their peak.

Ad campaigns in many states are courting undecided young adults. In Colorado, a nonprofit group created a series of provocative "got insurance?" ads. When the state's marketplace launched, models wearing nothing but underwear and "Get Covered" signs passed out fliers in Denver.

Shmuel Johnson, a 31-year-old without insurance who works in Los Angeles, isn't interested.

"There's this elitist attitude that (politicians) think they know what's better for us than ourselves, and that's part of why I take issue with this. I'm being forced to do something that's not necessarily in my best interest," he said. "I don't need insurance, man. I'm healthy."

He says he'll select the cheapest, lowest level of coverage available simply to avoid being fined.

In 2012, 18 million 19- to 34-year-olds lacked insurance—or 27 percent of all people in that age group, according to U.S. census data.

The Obama administration is making the rounds on college campuses to encourage people to sign up and has enlisted celebrities including Lady Gaga and Kerry Washington in its Get Covered campaign.

More than 3 million young adults have thanks to the Affordable Care Act because they remained on their parents' health insurance, according to federal authorities. The law extended the age that children can stay on their parents' plan to 26.

Groups that oppose the health overhaul such as Generation Opportunity are spreading their message at college parties. The organization gained a following after social media videos featuring a creepy Uncle Sam popping up at gynecological and proctology exams went viral. The tagline urged young adults to keep big government out of their personal health decisions.

The group's recent party at the University of Miami featured glossy-haired models handing out free gifts, free alcohol and sweaty twenty-somethings bumping and grinding to a live DJ.

Mette Jensen, a 22-year-old student, said she supports "Obamacare" even though she signed a petition against it.

"Well, why not. I love free stuff."

Explore further: Marketing efforts to uninsured youth ramp up

Related Stories

Marketing efforts to uninsured youth ramp up

January 1, 2014
The so-called "young invincibles," are so important to the success of the Affordable Care Act that supporters and detractors are spending millions to reach them with racy ads, social media campaigns and celebrity endorsements.

2.1 million sign up for 'Obamacare' health insurance

January 1, 2014
More than 2 million people have signed up for private health insurance through President Barack Obama's signature reform after a botched rollout, the US government said Tuesday.

Obama hopes youth not discouraged by health woes

December 5, 2013
President Barack Obama says he hopes young people don't get discouraged by how hard it has been to implement health care reform.

Obama symbolically signs up for Obamacare

December 23, 2013
US President Barack Obama has symbolically signed up for health insurance to promote his own controversial health care reform legislation, a White House official said Monday.

Federal data show health disparities among states

December 12, 2013
The slow rollout of a new federal health insurance marketplace may be deepening differences in health coverage among Americans.

Help offered for people who miss Obamacare deadline

December 25, 2013
The US government Tuesday offered help for people who were unable to sign up for health insurance through the federal website by the deadline as part of the president's controversial health care reform legislation.

Recommended for you

Blowing smoke? E-cigarettes might help smokers quit

July 26, 2017
People who used e-cigarettes were more likely to kick the habit than those who didn't, a new study found.

Brain disease seen in most football players in large report

July 25, 2017
Research on 202 former football players found evidence of a brain disease linked to repeated head blows in nearly all of them, from athletes in the National Football League, college and even high school.

Safety of medical devices not often evaluated by sex, age, or race

July 25, 2017
Researchers at Yale and the University of California-San Francisco have found that few medical devices are analyzed to consider the influence of their users' sex, age, or race on safety and effectiveness.

Why you should consider more than looks when choosing a fitness tracker

July 25, 2017
A UNSW study of five popular physical activity monitors, including Fitbit and Jawbone models, has found their accuracy differs with the speed of activity, and where they are worn.

Dog walking could be key to ensuring activity in later life

July 24, 2017
A new study has shown that regularly walking a dog boosts levels of physical activity in older people, especially during the winter.

Study finds 275,000 calls to poison control centers for dietary supplement exposures from 2000 through 2012

July 24, 2017
U.S. Poison Control Centers receive a call every 24 minutes, on average, regarding dietary supplement exposures, according to a new study from the Center for Injury Research and Policy and the Central Ohio Poison Center, ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Jan 01, 2014
This IS up to our young people. The tea party nazis want our young to vote with their feet against their own interest, and want them to do this for nothing! They want blind obedience to a hidden gang of thugs that control our banks and insurance companies, and by extension control the 'tea party' by bribing its higher ups into becoming owned, slavish marionettes. Young people ALL have minds. Then need to use them to see their own best interest. Even middle agers too. I know many intelligent folks with blind spots put there by skilful malicious propaganda. They prattle 'tea party' lines even when injuries force them out of work; even when no insurance company will then have them and cancel them ASAP after debilitating injuries; even when poverty and starvation debilitates them and their children. Such are the very ones most to be helped by the Affordable Health Care Act.

Such also are the ones that one day in the quiet of that night will apply to be covered.
1 / 5 (1) Jan 01, 2014
"There's this elitist attitude that (politicians) think they know what's better for us than ourselves, and that's part of why I take issue with this. I'm being forced to do something that's not necessarily in my best interest," he said. "I don't need insurance, man. I'm healthy."

I find this hilarious, because illnesses and injuries of all sorts can happen at any given instant in a person's life. He's still falling for the "I'm invincible" meme, even though you'd think a 31 year old would have figured out by now that simply isn't true.

However, if this program is going to be used as another crutch to allow the elderly to live off the labors of the younger, and buy color tvs and the latest iPhone while doing it, then I think that is a serious flaw.

Seriously, these people were young and healthy when land was $500 per acre, and gasoline cost a few cents per gallon. Some have owned tens of acres land their whole life. I don't feel sorry for them.
3 / 5 (2) Jan 01, 2014
As said, I don't feel sorry for them, when younger generations have to pay a year or two worth of income to buy just a half-acre of land in some subdivision.

Yes, young people should be a part of the health care program, but not for the sake of the elderly, in most cases, because they already had their opportunity to do things right.

It's sort of like the smoker, who started smoking in the 1960's, when they already knew cigarettes caused cancer, but now, all this time later, they expect a payout from lawsuits, and stupidly a few years back they were even awarded a substantial sum. People shouldn't get a payout for injuries they knowingly caused to themselves, but on the other hand, had the government done the responsible thing, Cigarettes would have been banned all that time ago.

At any rate, young people shouldn't be left to foot the bill for the elderly, in most cases, because they were supposed to have provided for themselves.
1 / 5 (1) Jan 01, 2014
No seriously, both of my Grandparents I'm about to mention passed away about 11 years and 15 years ago respectively, but it doesn't change what I'm about to say.

They started with, as far as I know, very little. he had a 6th grade education and started work in logging, but eventually ended up as a mechanic off shore in the oil industry. They bought land of their own, raised their own food, and did quite a few other farming and fishing small business endeavors over the years after his retirement. When my Grandmother died she still had 60 acres of land, and at least $220,000 in the bank, full insurance on herself, the house and the land, and had insurance policies on all of her children and grandchildren.

What was the excuse of the other people in that age group, a huge number of which don't seem to own a damn thing, even though they also weren't sick during the prime of their lives in many cases?

For one thing, Renting is the bane of lifetime savings. What else though?
5 / 5 (1) Jan 03, 2014
For all you who voted for Obama to get Obamacare, thanks a lot. My premiums went up tremendously and my coverage went down. If you voted for Obamacare and you work for a company that provides healthcare.... just wait till the end of this year...... Unless you work for a government privileged company, you too will find you will lose your insurance and your doctors.

And for those that voted for Obama to get healthcare.... stupid is as stupid is..... did you get any yet? If you did, do you realize it covers next to nothing?

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.