A young person who heeds the call to “opt out” of Obamacare is gambling with his or her future. Worse, that person is gambling with everyone else’s, as well.
A number of conservative groups have short-sightedly called for young people to refuse to sign up for health care under the Affordable Care Act. The strategy may be sound; for Obamacare to succeed, it must sign on millions of young, healthy people to shoulder the burden of the millions of older, less healthy people who will also sign on.
But the action itself is unsound, for both the young person and for the rest of us. That’s because going without insurance is a pretty stupid political statement. You can pledge to never pay a dime into Obamacare. You cannot pledge to never need health care, following an illness or an accident.
Generation Opportunity is one of the groups telling people not to sign up.
Evan Feinberg, President of Generation Opportunity, said in a statement last month, “Obamacare supporters are using millions of taxpayer dollars in an attempt to brainwash my generation into signing up for an expensive, unfair, and, quite frankly, creepy pyramid scheme. We want young people to know they have options — including the ability to opt out of Obamacare by paying a relatively small penalty … Opting out of Obamacare is the cheapest, smartest decision for my generation.”
That’s simply not true. Paying the penalty is one of the consequences of refusing to sign up for insurance under Obamacare. There are other penalties, such as having to foot the bill personally when they’re sick or hurt.
Of course, Generation Opportunity (which calls itself “free-thinking, liberty-loving”) says that young people can always sign up for Obamacare after they get sick or suffer an injury. And that’s true — thanks to Obamacare’s own provisions.
But going without is still a gamble, because young people without insurance are far less likely to seek preventative treatment, or treatment after the fact, unless they’re suffering tremendously. That can make a minor medical bill into a major one. And in some cases, their lives will depend on early detection of health problems.
“Opting out” of Obamacare is also not a conservative position to take. Conservatives have always valued self-reliance.
Even liberal blogger Andrew Sullivan points this out.
“For conservatives, freedom is always coupled with personal responsibility,” he says. “Your right to be free from government interference is also an implicit statement that you can take care of yourself — and won’t at some point suddenly change your mind.”
Young people do get sick and hurt — and without insurance, they show up in emergency rooms. The result is that hospitals charge more to those who can pay, to make up for revenue lost to those who can’t.
Young people who opt out are gambling that they won’t get sick or get hurt, but they’re gambling with our money.
And it’s a losing bet.
If conservatives want to end Obamacare, they’ll have to do it the old-fashioned way — by getting candidates who share their views elected.