Dana Millbank, political columnist for the Washington Post had this commonplace observation:
The administration announced last week that only 1.08 million people ages 18 to 34 had signed up for Obamacare by the end of February, or about 25 percent of total enrollees. If the proportion doesn’t improve significantly, the result likely will be fatal for the Affordable Care Act.
Yeah, Obamacare is circling the bowl. Tell me something I don’t know.
But Millbank puts an interesting interpretation of this observation:
the Obama youth are abandoning him in his hour of need
So that’s the problem, “Obama youth” (a rather unfortunate phrasing, if you ask me), by which he means, people who were 18 to 30 in 2008, and now 23 to 36, who voted for Obama then, are betraying Obama by not buying Obamacare.
We could have some deontological argument about whether a 2008 Obama voter is in some way obligated to support Obama policy six years later, but the fact is, they aren’t. My question is, why aren’t they?
The obvious answer is, Obamacare is a terrible deal. If you are a healthy 25-year-old male, an Obamacare-compliant insurance policy is almost a dead loss. It offers benefits that are useless to him (hormonal birth-control, maternity, prescription drugs, etc.) and the only benefit he can actually use, catastrophic coverage, the same law provides to him for free.
And on the flip side, the penalties for not buying insurance will, as a practical matter, never be applied. The administration is (unlawfully) delayed implementing any penalty, and even if a penalty is actually comes into force, you can always claim hardship, or religious exemption (it sounds like a right-wing-radio hallucination, but Muslims are exempt, as are Amish and anyone else who claims not to “believe” in health insurance), and if that doesn’t work, the law only permits the IRS to collect the penalty from your tax refund, something most young people won’t even get.
But he voted for Obama!
Of course he did. A vote is free. However foolishly (or wisely) you vote, it is extremely unlikely to affect the outcome. You can “vote your conscience” without your own vote ever changing your life at all.
So in 2008 and 2012, you can vote for Obama and tell your friends and tell your parents and tell yourself you voted the right way, the cool way, whatever. Then 2014, Obamacare comes around and the choice changes. You can continue to support Obama, and be out of pocket hundreds of dollars every month, your own money. Or you can do nothing.
And that is a real easy call.