Obama Losing Youth on Health Care

The National Journal had an interesting article this week describing the difficulty Democrats have been having getting young adults interested in the health care debate.  Two-thirds of voters 18 to 29 pulled the lever for Barack Obama last November, and over 40 percent of the uninsured are young adults age 18 to 34.  So, the Dems assumed they would be big proponents of the Obama agenda, including his hallmark proposal on health reform.  It turns out, though, that America’s youth were a lot more interested in high-falutin’ notions of Hope and Change–and defeating that old geezer running on the Republican ticket–than they were about tangible policy proposals.

Reform advocates have chalked up the under-30 set’s indifference about health care reform to an “information gap”.  But, with the White House’s extensive outreach on Twitter and other social networks, a full-court press by the DNC’s Organizing for America to reach young adults, and even an ad campaign by Rock the Vote featuring celebrities like Zach Braff and Perez Hilton, it’s hard to believe anyone in America has too little information.  More likely, we can chalk this indifference up to … well, youthful indifference to almost every sort of public policy debate.  No matter what the topic, when it comes to policy–as opposed to politics–young adults as a general rule just tend not to get involved.

Indeed, if they did learn more about the health care proposals being debated on Capitol Hill, one might imagine young adults would be pretty upset to learn that the Democrats want to force everyone in America to purchase an expensive health insurance policy that covers not just the benefits they most want, but the benefits a bunch of Washington bureaucrats decide they should have.  And, if they or their employers don’t buy such a health insurance policy, they’ll get hit with monetary penalties as high as $950 under the Senate Finance Committee plan or 2.5 percent of their income under the House proposal.

But one reason why so many young adults are uninsured is that they have chosen to forgo very expensive existing health insurance policies that have prices inflated by too many state and federal benefit, coverage, and premium regulations.  Those prices won’t come down under the Democrats’ proposals either.  Instead, they’ll climb even higher as the young and healthy get stuck in insurance risk pools with older and sicker Americans whose costs they’ll have to subsidize.  Indeed, to the extent that a mere 34 percent of those age 19 to 34 actively oppose the reform proposals (with another 34 percent in favor and 31 percent not sure), this probably CAN be attributed to an information gap–one in which America’s youth don’t fully understand what a raw deal this would be for them.