Why aren’t Arizona’s Millennials signing up for the Affordable Care Act? That’s what the Obama administration is wondering now that the open enrollment is underway in Arizona and across the nation. My generation is the key to the Affordable Care Act’s success, and yet so far we’ve steered clear for three straight years.
Even before Election Day, in which voters across the country rejected candidates who supported this law, young people have been staying away.
The Affordable Care Act won’t work unless droves of young, healthy people enroll, thereby subsidizing the high costs of insuring older and sicker people. But to date, only 22 percent of those buying Affordable Care Act plans in Arizona have been Millennials. Many of the rest have decided to opt out of insurance altogether.
Why? You’ll hear a lot of excuses from the administration and others. Some say we’re ignorant. Others say we’re stubborn. Still more say we just need a little push. But none of these are right.
We’re avoiding the Affordable Care Act for one simple reason: It’s not a good deal for us.
Too many Millennials learned that the hard way. Many in our generation anxiously looked forward to the Affordable Care Act’s passage back in 2010. Once the law was implemented, however, we discovered that the promise of affordable health insurance was false.
Simply look at what the average 27-year-old in Arizona is facing next year. The cost of monthly premiums for 2017 has risen substantially. A “middle-of-the-road” silver plan costs on average 116 percent more for 2017 than it did this year. The average monthly premium is a substantial $422—a costly expense that a Millennial struggling to find work or pay off tens of thousands of dollars in student loans can hardly afford.
Even the law’s premium subsidies don’t sweeten the deal like the White House wants. With out-of-pocket costs and deductibles also on the rise, chances are Millennials will still have to spend thousands of dollars on an Affordable Care Act plan. This is money we need for savings, investment, and building a foundation for our futures.
Moreover, my generation prizes customization and personalization—we want a plan that’s tailored to our unique needs. Instead, Affordable Care Act plans include all kinds of mandatory coverage we’ll never use, which also inflates the costs. The best option for healthy Millennials is often a basic plan covering potential catastrophes. Yet the Affordable Care Act prohibits anyone over age 30 from buying these better options.
The numbers explain why so many of the 28 percent of Arizona’s population who are Millennials have avoided the Affordable Care Act. For many, paying the government fine is more affordable than shelling out hundreds or even thousands of dollars a year for something we won’t use.
This won’t stop the Obama administration from trying to sign us up. The federal government is working overtime to get us on board, while doing everything it can to gloss over the obvious downsides. President Obama even tried recently to get Millennials to enroll by making it seem like a patriotic act. “The more young and healthy people like you who do the smart thing and sign up, then the better it’s going to work for everybody,” the president implored.
Really? We don’t have the luxury of throwing our money down the drain simply because the president says it’s our civic duty. If the Affordable Care Act’s planners knew anything about Millennials, they would’ve realized that we won’t pay for something we don’t need. We’re discerning consumers who are smart enough to ask questions and seek the best value available at the lowest prices. We can do the math to figure out whether the Affordable Care Act offers what we’re looking for.
It doesn’t. Millennials in Arizona know that firsthand—that’s why they haven’t signed up. If the Trump administration wants to fix this mess, they should start by finding ways to make insurance the great deal Millennials need. My generation needs customization and affordability, and the Affordable Care Act offers nothing of the sort.
David Barnes is the policy director of Generation Opportunity.
The views expressed in guest commentaries are those of the author and are not the views of the Arizona Capitol Times.