On Wednesday March 5th, the Obama Administration announced a second delay in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) mandate that requires health insurance plans to meet minimum requirements in health benefits. The mandate has been controversial since its conception. With the passage of the Affordable Care Act, this mandate established 10 essential benefits that must be included in every health plan available to the American public.
This provision is responsible for the firestorm created over President Obama’s claim that “if you like your health plan, you can keep it.” Contrary to the President’s remarks, this particular mandate eliminates all plans that do not include the 10 essential benefits. According to Kaiser Health News, the mandate was originally planned to go into effect January 1st of 2013 and cancellation notices for plans not meeting the benchmark were sent in August 2012. As a result thousands of people received insurance policy cancellation notices. For example, 80 percent of Florida Blue individual policy holders, about 50 percent of individual policy holders in Kaiser Permanente in California and 45 percent of individual policy holders in Independence Blue Cross in Philadelphia received cancellation notices, just to name a few. The public outcry led to the first delay of this mandate in 2013.
Kaiser also noted that of those individuals who received cancellation notices, two thirds would see rate increases in buying a new plan. Previously, healthy Americans could choose a low value, limited benefits plan with an equally limited premium. In comparison, this mandate requires all Americans to buy a higher value, expanded benefits plan with a larger premium even if the plan holder is healthy and doesn’t plan on utilizing these benefits.
Great, so with this delay people can keep their lower cost plans longer and Democrats can get through another election cycle without answering to ACA complications – a win-win right? Not quite. The minimum requirements mandate is only delayed for individuals who already had a health insurance plan. New enrollees through the marketplace are not able to choose among the less expensive, restricted benefit plans but are limited to choosing from the more expensive plans that include the ten essential benefits. According to a 2012 report from the Department of Health and Human Services, young adults from age 19-34 were the least likely to be insured and thus, the largest population to be seeking coverage in order to avoid the payment penalty for not having insurance. The young and healthy adults who are not likely to utilize medical services are still forced to choose between purchasing one of the higher priced ACA compliant plans or a penalty for not being insured.
Democrats won’t have to answer to as many complaints about the ACA this election cycle, those previously insured will remain on their cheaper plans, the employer mandate to provide employees affordable coverage has been delayed, the elderly and the sick will be gaining more affordable care through the exchanges and the millennials will continue to be the cost containers of the law, forced to pay into a system they may not want or need. A more fair provision would allow for a delay in the individual mandate that extends as long as the delay for all plans to become compliant to the ten essential benefits. Since the ACA was passed millennials have been slated to “take one for the team”. However, it is one thing to draft us as an MVP and a completely different story to send us onto the court without a team.
It is time for millennials to become knowledgable on policy and to come together as a vocal voting block Congress should aim to cater to.