There are some members of the so-called “immortal” age group whose bodies have betrayed them. Immortality will be long and painful unless they can get the medical help they need.
These are young people – in their 20s and 30s – who comprise the group that allegedly gives no thought to the cost of health care because they never get sick. These also are the young people opponents of the Affordable Health Care law – Obamacare – predict will revolt at being required to buy health insurance policies beginning next month.
Under the rules of Obamacare, if they don’t invest in health insurance, they will have to pay a fine. It’s a small fine the first year, but it increases in future years.
This mandate is a crucial component of Obamacare. If healthy young people don’t buy in, the insurance companies won’t be able to afford to cover older – and sicker – Americans.
But some of those younger Americans are likely to welcome Obamacare with open arms. They are the ones with chronic health problems, untreated sports or work injuries, long delayed dental care or people who work in dangerous conditions with no coverage.
Under Obamacare, no one can be turned down by the insurance companies because of pre-existing conditions. Obamacare also allows children to remain on their parents’ policies until they’re 26.
But many of those a little older than that are, like the rest of us, just an accident away from catastrophic medical bills.
Those who don’t get insurance from their employers might have tried to shop for coverage on the open market, hoping to get a policy that, while virtually worthless for small, everyday problems, might protect them from bankruptcy if they are badly injured or get a serious disease. But the cheap, high-deductible insurance is not much good even for that.
Some of these “immortals” will refuse to buy insurance and will pay the fine instead. But it seems likely that many will embrace the security of affordable health insurance – in many cases subsidized by the federal government – and the peace of mind it brings.
Of course, the actuarial tables don’t lie. These young people will, indeed, be subsidizing the cost of health care for their elders to some extent.
Is that fair? Well, these young people will get old themselves one day. And that’s how Social Security works.
But won’t this system ratchet up the cost of insurance for everyone? After all, that’s what we’ve been hearing from the critics who want to throttle funding for Obamacare, that it means “sticker shock” for all.
Fortunately, though, that’s not true. Results of recent studies by prominent health care research organizations show that the scary predictions of sticker shock have not materialized. Investigations by the Kaiser Family Foundation, the RAND Corp. and Avalere Health find that rates for individual coverage have remained stable and affordable.
The research was conducted in states where rates under Obamacare have been projected, including Washington, California, Florida, Texas and, yes, South Carolina.
“Our analysis found no widespread trend toward sharply higher prices in the individual market,” said a senior economist at Rand.
For one thing, the estimated 125 million Americans with job-based coverage won’t be affected. Second, an estimated 80 percent of those who buy insurance in the new state pools will qualify for tax credits, which will reduce the cost substantially.
Also, counter to what the critics claim, the overall cost of health care increased over the past year at a much slower rate than in the past, indicating that early efforts to contain medical costs – as required under Obamacare – are paying off.
All this is very bad news for lawmakers who are doing everything possible – including threatening not to raise the debt ceiling – to derail Obamacare. If they can’t keep the public in a state of panic about Obamacare, they’re sunk.
And, for those gunning for Obamacare, here’s the worst possible outcome of all: Americans may like it.
James Werrell, Herald opinion page editor, can be reached at 329-4081 or, by email, at firstname.lastname@example.org.