KTVU, September 27, 2013
The success of California's health care reform may rely on a key demographic signing up for the program: the state's young, healthy adults.
If you're 18 to 29 and healthy, the government wants you. But it's not the draft revisited; it's health care.
Covered California expects to be up and running on Tuesday, October 1. But the insurance exchange, chartered under federal rules requiring health insurance for almost all, is already actively courting young people.
"Younger people are healthier," said UC Berkeley Health Policy Analyst Laurel Lucia. "And the whole idea behind the insurance system is that it balances the risk across a big population.”
In other words, healthier Californians will be paying the premiums to treat sicker Californians. It is how insurance of all types can exist.
KTVU did an anonymous survey in downtown Walnut Creek and found twenty-somethings divided on the idea of government-mandated insurances provided through government-run exchanges.
"I don't think it's going to be good insurance. So no, I don't think so,"responded one 23-year-old woman when asked if she would be signing up.
Another 24-year-old woman said she currently has insurance under her parent's policy and is not eager to pay for her own. She said she was concerned about “fine print and stuff like that you never know, so I think I’ll just play it cool.”
The California Endowment, California Community Foundation and San Francisco Foundation have funded activists including 30-year-old Tamika Butler, the state director of a group called Young Invincibles. She said the organization started four years ago at Georgetown University to encourage young adults nationwide to embrace 'Obamacare.'
"It's going to take a united effort of getting people signed up in health care," Butler said. She also said her message is being well-received.
"Young people do care about health care. We get cancer and we can't get treatment because we tap out on our plans," Butler explained.
"Most of my friends do not have health care, and that keeps them from getting regular checkups," another 21-year-old woman told KTVU.
Under federal rules, going without health coverage will be incur a fee on the person's federal income taxes for 2013, though there are certain exceptions. That fee could be as high as 2.5 percent of total annual income, according to Lucia. That's the stick; the carrot is affordable and subsidized health care coverage for qualifying young people.
"If I get more coverage under Obamacare than what we have at Target, then why not, right?" asked one 24-year-old part-time worker.
Covered California officials are hoping that as more young people recognize the advantages, interest in the program qill increase. That is what it will take to make the insurance plan successful.