Why We Must Re-frame the Health Care Debate for Young People

Justin Haskins Heartland Institute
Published August 26, 2015

Consumer Power Report #470

Since 2014, when most health insurance requirements established under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) were fully implemented, the cost of health insurance has increased for every significant demographic. According to a study by HealthPocket, Inc., average monthly premiums for U.S. women age 30 increased 35 percent from 2013 to the end of 2014. Men of the same age saw premiums rise a whopping 73 percent.

Many older Americans also witnessed significant cost bumps for health insurance premiums over the same period. Women age 63 experienced premium cost increases topping 37 percent, and premium prices for men of the same age rose 22 percent.

Premium increases for middle-age and older Americans, while significant, pale in comparison to those felt by young people. Health insurance premiums under Obamacare have risen by nearly 45 percent for many young women and by an astounding 78 percent for young men. All this despite the fact that the National Association of Insurance Commissioners says health care costs for 63-year-olds are five times greater than for 22-year-olds.

Despite growing costs for younger Americans, support for President Barack Obama and his signature health plan continues to remain noticeably higher among young people compared to other demographics. According to a July survey conducted by the Associated Press-GfK, roughly half of Americans between 18 and 30 approve of Obama’s job performance, compared to only 43 percent of all Americans.

A Gallup poll conducted in April shows only 18 percent of Americans age 18 to 29 believe ACA has hurt them or their family members, the lowest number of any age group surveyed. Notably, young people were more likely than any other age group to say Obamacare helped them compared to those who said it hurt them. Every other demographic had more respondents say Obamacare has hurt them compared to the percentage that said it helped.

The reason for the large gap between perception and reality for younger Americans is partly due to ACA’s provision allowing young people to stay on a parent’s health insurance plan until age 26 – and in some cases, until age 27 – but the real reason young people continue to support Obama’s failing health care policies has more to do with how ACA opponents frame their arguments against the Obama administration.

Young people have been shaped by a variety of factors – such as the Internet, social media, and high levels of student debt – that never affected their parents and grandparents. The factor that has most reshaped the way young people think about health care is the left’s takeover of the American education system.

From a very early age, young people in public schools across the nation are trained to believe rich people are greedy, money is evil, and “sharing is caring.” It’s a world where students are demonized for being concerned about the national debt and the tremendous costs imposed by bloated bureaucratic government programs.

It’s no wonder then that all of the studies, news stories, and detailed analyses produced by the pro-liberty movement are having little effect on young people compared to older demographics. At the end of the day, even if young people know Obamacare isn’t working efficiently, they have been brainwashed for 20 years or more to believe cost effectiveness isn’t what is important: helping people is. And if Obamacare seems to be helping people, then young people will continue to support it, regardless of the cost.

If those who support a free-market health care system want to convince young people to support a different version of health care reform, they need to present Obamacare’s problems, as well as solutions to those problems, that focus on how ACA hurts people, not just how it costs too much money.

Just one of the many ways this can be accomplished is by showing that increased government involvement in the health care industry leads to longer wait times, shortages of doctors, and ultimately more suffering and untimely deaths.

For instance, contrary to claims recently made by presidential candidate and real estate tycoon Donald Trump, the government-controlled health care system in Canada has led to terrible and dangerous average wait times for patients needing hip, knee, or back surgery. The average patient needing one of these treatments must wait 42 weeks, according to a study by the Fraser Institute. The same study also showed patients needing neurosurgery must wait an astonishing and life-threatening average of 31 weeks for treatment.

Canadians, do yourselves a favor: If you slip and fall, seriously hurting your back, neck, or head, go to America. Even if it takes you a whole week to make it there and another month to see someone, you’ll still likely be treated much faster than you would be in Canada.

As Forbes writer Avik Roy points out, government controls and a universal health care system in Scotland led to significantly lower cancer survival rates compared to patients in the United States. For instance, 60 percent of patients with colon cancer in the United States survived five years, while only 46 percent survived in Scotland over the same period. Over time, that difference translates to tens of thousands of additional lives saved.

By focusing on how government interference directly causes harm to all people, including those who are most at risk, pro-liberty health care reform advocates shift the focus from cash to compassion, which is right where they need to be to reach young people.

— Justin Haskins



Sign-up season for President Barack Obama’s health care law doesn’t start for another couple of months, but the next few days are crucial for hundreds of thousands of customers at risk of losing financial aid when they renew coverage for 2016.

Call them tardy tax filers: an estimated 1.8 million households that got subsidies for their premiums last year but failed to file a 2014 tax return as required by the law, or left out key IRS paperwork.

Because of coordination issues between the IRS and marketplaces like HealthCare.gov, consumers who keep procrastinating into the fall are taking chances with their financial aid, according to insurers and the tax agency. That means, for example, someone who’s been paying a monthly premium of $90 could suddenly get hit with a bill for $360.

Government officials say they have a backstop planned that should help many procrastinators. Nonetheless, insurers and advocacy groups say they’ve been told the best way returning customers can avoid hassles is to file their taxes correctly by Aug. 31.

“You don’t want to get to December and realize that your subsidy amount isn’t there,” said Clare Krusing, spokeswoman for the industry group America’s Health Insurance Plans. Sign-up season starts Nov. 1, and insurers typically send bills for January in mid-December.

The last thing insurers want is consumers blaming them. They’re particularly concerned that satisfied customers just waiting for their coverage to automatically renew might get a nasty surprise.

SOURCE: Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, Associated Press


Scott Walker became the first top-tier Republican candidate Tuesday to release a plan to replace Obamacare, but conservative rivals said it is too liberal and would create a new entitlement.

The Wisconsin governor pledged that on the first day of his presidency, he would send a bill “to Congress to once and for all repeal Obamacare entirely.”

Speaking at a machine parts shop outside of Minneapolis, Walker also said he would sign an executive order to undo what he calls the “special deal for Congress,” which allows the federal government to pay a portion of Hill staffers’ and members’ health insurance as their employer. The provision has raised the ire of conservatives but repealing it would raise insurance costs for staffers on Capitol Hill.

Walker said that repealing that would “light a fire under Congress” to pass the repeal and replace Obamacare.

Walker says he would replace President Barack Obama’s signature law with a plan that would return authority to the states and provide sliding-scale tax credits directly to consumers who don’t get coverage at work to help them buy insurance. The tax credits would be based on age – not income – an element that immediately drew criticism as a new entitlement.

SOURCE: Jennifer Haberkorn and Kyle Cheney, Politico


The Food and Drug Administration is delaying a controversial ObamaCare rule that requires restaurants to list the number of calories in the food they sell.

Restaurants and grocery stores will not have to comply with the contentious new rule until after the 2016 presidential election – at which time a Republican president could choose to scrap the rule altogether.

The controversial menu labeling requirements issued late last year would require major restaurants and grocery stores to calorie counts.

But the rules have generated bipartisan blowback on Capitol Hill.

The FDA’s delay comes amid fierce pressure from Congress to back down from the rules.

The menu labeling requirements came under attack from Congress as lawmakers on both sides of the aisle called for more time for businesses to comply with the rule.

SOURCE: Tim Devaney, The Hill


South Carolina’s public employees will not pay more for health insurance next year, but their employers will.

The State Fiscal Accountability Authority unanimously approved Tuesday the health care rates that legislators wrote into this year’s budget. It called for no change to employees’ monthly premiums or co-payments.

State agencies, school districts, and other public employers will pay 4.5 percent more starting Jan. 1 to cover rising health care costs.

The last time the five-member fiscal oversight board disregarded legislators’ recommendations on health coverage, the state Supreme Court struck down the decision.

In 2012, Gov. Nikki Haley convinced a majority of the board to split rising costs with employees, even though legislators designated money in the budget to cover workers’ premiums. The state’s high court ruled the board overstepped its authority.

SOURCE: Seanna Adcox, Associated Press


When President Obama was selling the government health care takeover to Congress and the American people, he repeatedly promised that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare, would keep health insurance companies “honest” and held “accountable” for providing affordable, quality health care to Americans.

Over the past five and a half years the country has experienced the unraveling of this unworkable law as millions of Americans continue to struggle with higher health care premiums, increased out-of-pocket costs, less choice and greater health uncertainty. Americans are paying more for out-of-pocket for health care now than they did in the past decade.

Most still remember the president’s famous words, “if you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor.” But for many, that’s turned out to be another unfulfilled Obamacare promise. Now, insurance companies are preparing to gouge consumers with massive premium increases. Estimates for 2016 show that insurance companies around the country are seeking premium rate increases of 20 percent to 40 percent or more, saying their new customers under Obamacare turned out to be sicker than expected.

Not only are insurance companies shifting more costs onto patients, but across the country, insurers are restricting access to care and choice by limiting the number of doctors and hospitals they provide in a coverage network. Insurance plans on government-run Obamacare exchanges on average have 34 percent fewer hospitals and doctors – including specialists – in their provider networks than health policies sold outside those exchanges or offered by employers.

SOURCE: David Williams, The Daily Caller