Advocates for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) have targeted young adults, aged 18-35, as the critical demographic whose participation is necessary for the success of the new insurance exchange plan. Members of outreach and education programs initiated by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Department of Health and Human Services are essentially advertising the insurance marketplace that will be open for enrollment starting October 1, 2013. They plan to use a combination of varied media and partnerships to increase our understanding of how the exchange works and why it will benefit us.
So why is the young adult demographic so important to the success of the ACA?
Primarily, the ACA is predicted to benefit those who are currently uninsured and/or have pre-existing health conditions. Currently, 19 million young adults between the ages of 19-34 lack health insurance and make up the largest group of uninsured individuals – approximately 57% of the total.
Most members of the young adult population:
- Are part of a low income demographic and either cannot or chose not to purchase insurance.
- Lack an extensive knowledge of the insurance process and may be disinclined to purchase something they do not understand.
- Are generally healthy, with only 15% claiming a chronic illness or pre-existing condition, and view insurance as “unnecessary”.
- Do not receive employer-sponsored insurance and would therefore be required to purchase it on their own dime
Secondly, supporters of the reform see this demographic as the population most likely have an increase in the percentage of health insurance purchasers A Kaiser Family Foundation health tracking poll found that 76% of individuals aged between 18-30 believe that insurance is something that they personally need and is worth the money it would cost them.
In other words, young adults a prime target because we are not only in need of insurance but are supposedly very willing to buy, provided we are properly marketed to convinced – exactly what ACA proponents intend to do. With the information on the table, it is important that we arm ourselves with knowledge and be prepared to ask ourselves, our providers, and our government the right questions.
Here is a list of 5 important things for the “critical population” to consider when thinking about our relationship with health insurance and the Affordable Care Act.
1. COST: What is the reality of our insurances rates, premiums, and deductibles?
The ACA promises to decrease the cost of health insurance for the average American but an American Action Forum study suggests that in 2014 premium rates for the majority of healthy adults in the 18-35 age range will actually increase. Advocates of the health care reform are marketing affordable care but this may not be the reality for every demographic. We wont know exactly how much more we will be paying until all the companies have finished rolling out their projections for the upcoming enrollment period
2. QUALITY: Will we have the ability to select a plan based on good and dependable care?
The new insurance marketplace is set up to be an online shopping center where an individual can compare prices of insurance plans based on eligibility and affordability. There is, however, no way to compare plans based on quality or the intricacies of services rendered, which is a drastic design flaw. Streamlining and simplifying the selection process to make it more “accessible” will at the same time leave out important information that is necessary for proper decision-making. Members of the uninsured population who have had little to no experience with insurance companies in the past will be uninformed when attempting to select a dependable plan.
3. FREEDOM: How severely will our freedom be limited in regard to mandates and lack of choice in the insurance market?
Affordable health care for all comes at a price: a lack of freedom for the insurance purchasing population. The reform law requires young healthy adults to buy insurance policies that are estimated to cost around $5,800 annually. This mandate is therefore not only forcing people to buy, but also forcing us to chose from a small number of pre-selected plans. Furthermore, the same young adults who belong to the already low-income demographic will be paying large subsidies to the insurance companies, which will allow the marketplace to subsidize services for other demographics.
4. APPLICABILITY: Will the marketplace cater to our specific needs?
It remains to be seen whether or not the plans being approved will provide an option tailored to young adults who are generally healthy, are on a budget, and desire a basic yet comprehensive plan. The Federal plan has a catastrophic insurance plan option worked in, which will provide coverage for serious illness or accidents, but the deductible is extremely high for a youth population. Additionally it is the only option for those who do not wish to purchase full coverage.
5. FUTURE IMPACT: How will this new Affordable Care Act impact the next decades for our generation?
The simple fact is that the decisions made by the government today will be the young adult population’s problem for the next sixty years. We are the generation that will both be making the initial decisions and seeing the long-term outcome in the same lifetime. It is imperative that our demographic inform ourselves and consider how the effects of the ACA will affect the state of health care in the future.