One essential feature of the insurance policies encouraged by Obamacare is that they require the young and healthy to subsidize the old and healthy. Policies available to young people, especially for young men, will be much more expensive than they are currently. The question is: will they choose to buy them or to pay the rather low Obamacare penalty (a tax, according to Chief Justice John Roberts)?
Evidence that many won’t comes from a poll conducted by the Republican group American Action Forum, as reported by AAF’s Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a former director of the Congressional Budget Office. Increasing percentages of respondents aged 18 to 40 said that they wouldn’t buy policies as the increase from their current premiums was 10 percent, 20 percent and 30 percent. It seems likely that even more would refuse if premiums doubled, as some have argued will happen in some cases.
By the way, this group was less negative toward Obamacare than polls have shown the entire adult population to be. Some 29 percent say they view the law favorably, almost as many as the 33 percent who view it unfavorable. Perhaps those numbers will change when they see the premium notice.
Poll respondents do not always accurately predict their future behavior. But I note that at least one prominent Obamacare supporter, Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, brother of Chicago Mayor and former Obama White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, wrote a column in the Wall Street Journal earlier this month arguing that young people had something in the nature of a patriotic duty to sign up for Obamacare policies. “We need to make clear as a society that buying insurance is part of individual responsibility,” he wrote. “During the last election, President Obama showed that he could use data to identify and mobilize young people. Come the fall, he and his administration need to turn these skills to motivate young Americans to do more than vote — and get insurance.”
Well, I hadn’t thought that buying insurance was a patriotic duty; we don’t even have a patriotic duty to serve in the military. Many, but not most, young people volunteer for that — and good for them. But Dr. Emanuel, a very smart man, sounds nervous about the prospect of many young people being unwilling to volunteer for the patriotic duty of subsidizing their elders.