The Obamacare clock ticks away

By Tia Rinehart

The nation is running out of time to convince the ‘Young Invincibles’ to enroll in the Affordable Care Act.

According to its’ website, the ‘Young Invincibles’ represent the interests of people 18 to 34. On March 31 the Affordable Care Act’s enrollment period ends. John Foster, a retired political science professor, said the program is designed to spread risk just like any other insurance market. Younger people need medical attention less and older people need more, but in order to balance out the cost of those enrolled, younger, healthy people must enroll, he said.

“Enrollment of younger people is a little further behind target than enrollment of older people which is to be expected,” he said. “You would expect someone who knows they have medical problems to sign up on the first day.”


John A. Logan College is scheduled to host an Affordable Care Act enrollment drive Feb. 14 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sarah Miller, navigator for Shawnee Health Service, said two computer labs have been reserved for the drive and the goal is to ease the nerves associated with the government regulations.

Miller said the drive is open to anyone, not just students.

“This is to have a place where there are computers set up and people can come in and apply online,” she said. “We’re going to have certified staff available so if they get to a point where there’s a question or want to make sure they’re completing the application correctly, we will help them do that.”

Most students file for themselves, which in most cases means they are eligible for Medicaid, Miller said.

“If they’re not being claimed on their parents’ taxes then it’s going to go by their tax filing, so for a lot of college students that’s going to put them in the eligibility for Medicaid,” she said. “For those over the Medicaid requirements there are tax credits to help reduce the costs.”

Brent Campbell, a graduate student from Herrin studying accounting, said he is insured through Medicaid. He said if he were not eligible through Medicaid, he would still make sure he was insured. However, he said if an employer did not cover his insurance, he would not take the job.

Dr. Sandra Collins, associate professor of health care management, said all adults are required by law to enroll in the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare. If individuals choose not to enroll, they face a penalty fine. Some people may find the fine more affordable, however, if they ever seek medical attention, they will be required to pay the bills on their own, she said.


“Younger people are slow to sign up because they don’t want to write out an insurance check, and that’s understandable,” Foster said. “You don’t realize the value of insurance until you need it. If you don’t need it, it’s just writing out a check for something you don’t see.”

Collins said a lot of young people still do not understand the benefits of enrolling and the consequences of not enrolling in Obamacare. She said states are finding ways to explain the program to young adults and help them enroll.

“Recent initiatives to reach out to younger people by holding informational sessions at universities and colleges is a positive step in the right direction,” she said.

John Jackson, emeritus professor of political science, said young people assume nothing bad will ever happen to them.

“(Government officials) are very concerned about young people,” he said. “Young people tend to be healthier than any other age category, so having young people enrolled is one of the major objectives in order to spread the risk.”

The main concern with young people being so heavily uninsured is the marketplace needs them in the pool of enrolled Americans. Just as with any insurance plan, the risk needs to be spread across a big population, he said.

Collins said if the ‘Young Invincibles’ do not enroll and numbers are lower than what the government is expecting, insurance companies could potentially increase premiums in the future to make up for the costs.

“About 40 percent of those projected to enroll in the marketplace are those in the 18-34 age group,” she said. “Some indicate that the need for the young to enroll is a serious concern given their premiums will produce the surplus needed to support the healthcare needs of the elderly.”

Collins said according to national polls, only half of the anticipated ‘Young Invincibles’ have signed up.

“They will have no health insurance coverage,” she said. “The end result, is that a portion of the population remains uninsured which was largely what Obamacare was to address and eliminate.”

Jackson said premiums could go up once the enrollment period ends because they will be figured according to the pool at that time.

“For many people the payment of the premium will be subsidized by the government and that’s particularly true for young people who don’t make much money,” he said. “So that may or may not have a specific impact on an individual or on young people in general. That depends on how much subsidy they are eligible for.”

Mike Bost, Illinois State Representative said the system is failing because young people are realizing the penalty fine they are charged with is almost a quarter of the price they would pay for the actual insurance.

“The only way the system works is to sign up young, healthy people,” he said. “However, when the young healthy people start to sign up, they realize that the cost of doing that is more expensive than they can afford.”

Either the system will fail because the younger population has not enrolled, or the young will enroll and in the long term, the younger healthy people will have to pay more in order to cover the cost of those with pre-existing conditions, he said.

“Instead of spending all this time destroying the healthcare system, we need to tweak the healthcare system,” Bost said, “So then what happens is those people who are healthy, don’t get penalized and all of a sudden be charged for services they can’t possibly afford.”

Collins said in the end, it depends on the values of the individual.

“For some younger individuals, having healthcare coverage to pay for illnesses that may or may not occur might be less valued than being able to feed their family or pay their electric bill,” she said.

Kennedy Braasch, a freshman from Naperville with an undecided major, said she would get covered, if she were not already.

“I’d get insurance because I’m crazy and I’ll probably break something,” she said. “Plus I’m sick all the time.”

Bost said a lot of people are saying Obamacare is providing health care for people who could not afford it before.

“There are some it is saving money for,” he said. “However, there is a lot larger number that it is costing them more money because if you put more people that are high risk into a pool, that’s how insurance works. It costs you more.”

Foster said enrollment numbers are increasing more and more.

“The enrollment started off slowly, then they slowly brought the website online and more and more people discovered it,” he said. “Enrollment has picked up significantly, especially since the start of the year.”

Enrollment is being promoted in many other ways as well.

Enroll America has partnered with the Ad Council to promote enrollment in Obamacare. They created a YouTube video of a singing cat, dog, fish and two singing parrots in an attempt to reach out to women in the ‘Young Invincibles.’ Get Covered Illinois, the Illinois Obamacare marketplace, has partnered with The Onion to advertise enrollment in Obamacare in an attempt to target the ‘Young Invincibles.’

Get Covered Illinois continues to host enrollment drives throughout the state to ensure Illinoisans sign up.

Insuring for the young invincibles | Create Infographics

Tia Rinehart can be reached at [email protected], @TiaRinehart_DE or 536-3311 ext. 254.