New study finds that many young people won’t purchase Obamacare plans

Dr. David Hogberg of the National Center for Public Policy Research explains how Obamacare affects young people.

Here’s the executive summary:

If the ObamaCare health insurance exchanges are to function properly, it is crucial that a substantial number of people ages 18-34 join them. This age group that is young and relatively healthy must purchase health insurance on the exchanges in order to “cross-subsidize” people who are older and sicker. Without the young and healthy, the exchanges will enter a “death spiral” where only the older and sicker participate and price of insurance premiums will increase precipitously.

This study finds that in 2014 many single people aged 18-34 who do not have children will have a substantial financial incentive to forego insurance on the exchanges and instead pay the individual mandate penalty of $95 or one percent of income. About 3.7 million of those ages 18-34 will be at least $500 better off if they forgo insurance and pay the penalty. More than 3 million will be $1,000 better off if they go the same route. This raises the likelihood that an insufficient number of young and healthy people will participate in the exchanges, thereby leading to a death spiral. 

The design of the plan is to tax younger, healthier people – especially men – in order to obtain the money to pay for heavy users of health care.

To compel the young and healthy to purchase insurance, the architects of ObamaCare included an individual mandate that requires individuals to either buy insurance or pay a penalty. The penalty, which increases over time, is whichever is greater: $95 or one percent of income in 2014, $325 or two percent of income in 2015, and $695 or 2.5 percent of income in 2016 and thereafter.

[…]The gender breakdown of these individuals presents another problem. Women have higher rates of health utilization than men, including more visits to primary-care physicians and greater use of diagnostic tests and emergency care. However, as Table 3 shows, roughly two-thirds of the individuals for whom insurance will cost at least $1,000 more than the fine are men.

Hard to see why any young man would have voted Democrat, and yet many did. Did they know that they were voting for a tax on themselves at a time when many of them are poorly educated by government-run schools, and can’t even find jobs? How can you pay a fine for not having health care when you don’t have a proper education or a proper job?

The net effect of the “community rating” and “guaranteed issue” provisions of Obamacare will be to raise health insurance premiums and force private companies to stop offering plans:

If the exchanges do not attract a sufficient number of people in the 18-34 age demographic, they will eventually enter an insurance “death spiral.” This occurs when the young and healthy drop out of the “insurance pool.” This leads to “adverse selection” in which insurance is only attractive to those who are generally older and sicker. If the insurance pool is comprised largely of people who are older and sicker, then insurance prices will rise to cover their costs. That rate increase causes even more young and healthy people drop their insurance, leaving the pools even older and sicker than before, and so on. Eventually, all but a few insurers will be forced to discontinue their business on the exchanges because they can no longer make a profit. Fewer insurers means less competition, resulting in even higher insurance premiums.

Community rating and guaranteed issue are catalysts for a death spiral. In its strictest form, community rating means that insurers must charge everyone the same premium, regardless of factors such as health status and age. Guaranteed issue means that an insurer must sell a policy to a consumer anytime.

Under ObamaCare, the exchanges use a modified version of both of these regulations. Its form of community rating doesn’t allow insurers to vary rates based on health status. It does allow, however, for modification of premiums if one smokes and to compensate for age (although in a more restricted manner than the market currently does). Regarding guaranteed issue, insurers must sell policies to all comers but (with a few exceptions) only during the annual open enrollment period from October to December.

Both of these rules give young and healthy people big incentives to forgo insurance coverage altogether. Community rating means young people have a reduced incentive to buy insurance since they will pay a premium that is above the market rate. Many who are currently purchasing insurance in the individual market, for example, will see a substantial premium increase if they switch to the exchange.

In a market without guaranteed issue, consumers run the risk of insurers not selling them policies when they get seriously ill. But that risk is largely gone under the exchanges. For instance, a young person who gets a serious illness in June only has to wait until October to sign up for insurance and then wait until January 1 of the next year to receive coverage. Combined, community rating and guaranteed issue give the young and healthy big incentives to forgo insurance until they are sick.

“Community rating” and “guaranteed issue” have actually already been tried at the state level. What happened then?

This:

The late Conrad Meier, then a senior fellow in health care policy for the Heartland Institute, examined what happened when these two regulations were instituted on the state level in his 2005 monograph “Destroying Insurance Markets.” In the early 1990s eight states — Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Vermont and Washington — imposed community rating and guaranteed issue on their individual insurance markets. The result, according to Meier, was the above-described death spiral.

For example, in 1992 the New Jersey legislature adopted community rating and guaranteed issue rules for its individual insurance market with the passage of the “Individual Health Coverage Program.” The monthly premium for family coverage from Aetna rose from $769 in 1994 to $6,005 in 2005, a whopping increase of 683 percent! Other insurers saw similar increases.

Before the reforms began, there were about 28 insurers covering the New Jersey individual market. By 2007 there were only seven. According to the Census Bureau, the number of people in New Jersey’s individual market fell from about 998,000 in 1994 to 630,000 in 2005, a decline of 37 percent.

It’s pretty clear that Obamacare was designed to replicate this same effect that’s been observed in states at a national level, paving the way for single payer health care. What will Americans think when their healthcare is controlled by the kind of people who run USPS, Amtrak, the Bureau of Motor Vehicles and the IRS? 

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