Sharp shoppers scuttle Obamacare
When are the obamacare supporters going to come out and agree that the people who opposed this insipid bill were 100% correct in their concerns??
The political travails of the Affordable Care Act — aka Obamacare — continue, as witnessed by the furor surrounding Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius‘ attempts to solicit funds to pay for its implementation. Politics do garner the bulk of the media attention, and the public may think that partisan battles will determine the law’s future. A recent poll sponsored by the American Action Forum, though, shows that the nuts and bolts of consumer decision-making may be its real Achilles heel.
Unfortunately, health insurance is a product, not a social vision. What we know to be true thanks to ample survey and analytic research is that in 2014, Obamacare will cause insurance premiums to rise sharply for the healthy and young. When it comes to products, Americans aged 18 to 40 act like consumers of all ages everywhere: They have a price point, and when the price gets too high, they get busy making changes.
The results are illuminating. In this group of current insurance purchasers, only 83 percent will still purchase if premiums rise 10 percent; 65 percent, if premiums rise 20 percent; and only 55 percent, if premiums rise 30 percent. The economic lesson is simple: As premiums rise, eventually, some consumers reach a price point at which they simply stop buying health insurance.
The policy lesson is twofold. First, a law intended to expand coverage will to some extent do exactly the opposite. Second, young Americans are exceedingly rational. If premiums rise 10 percent, 7 percent of those polled would pay the penalty, but then turn around and buy insurance (as the law dictates they must be permitted to do) if they got sick. The fraction rises to 11 percent and 20 percent for the larger premium hikes, respectively.
Obamacare is a controversial law whose provisions have received a mixed public reception. These results are echoed by the sentiments of the 18- to 40 year-olds polled by the American Action Forum. Obamacare is intended to expand insurance coverage by mandating that those same young Americans form a lower-cost insurance pool. This group, however, powerfully undercuts this goal. Behaving like all price-conscious consumers, young Americans will drop their insurance in the face of sharp premium increases.