Will health care premiums be affordable for young people? White House says yes

BY Jason Kane  October 28, 2013 at 8:24 PM EST


The Obama administration hopes to attract more than 2.5 million young, healthy people to enroll through the health insurance exchanges that open on Oct. 1. Photo courtesy of Flickr User will1ill/Alex Wong Getty Images.

Nearly half of uninsured young Americans who are eligible to buy coverage on the new insurance marketplaces will soon be able to purchase a basic health plan for less than $50 per month, according to a report released Monday by the Department of Health and Human Services.

The Obama administration touted the news as proof that affordable coverage will, in fact, be available to people between the ages of 18 and 34 — the group most likely to be uninsured. White House and insurance industry officials are counting on relatively healthy young population to help share the costs of older Americans with pre-existing conditions. The law will ban insurance companies from charging the latter significantly higher premiums, making cost-sharing with a wider group of people crucial.

But some analysts said that insurance plans wouldn’t be cheap enough for young adults, that the fine would be more attractive, and the entire scheme would fall apart.

That’s why the administration was touting these statistics Monday:

  • Nearly half (46 percent) of single young adults who are uninsured and may be eligible for coverage in the Health Insurance Marketplace could get coverage for $50 or less per month or less.

  • Nearly 7 in 10 (66 percent) of single young adults who are uninsured and may be eligible for coverage in the Health Insurance Marketplace could get coverage $100 or less.

The report examined 7.2 million single, uninsured young adults in 34 states and found that 1 million of them are expected to qualify for Medicaid and 1.9 million would be eligible for exchange plans of less than $100 a month. But it doesn’t mention how much copays or deductibles will be under those plans.

Still, if the statistics hold, it would be a bit of good news for an administration struggling with blowback from the disastrous launch of its online insurance marketplaces and recent news that insurers have started dropping hundreds of thousands of Americans who purchased insurance through the individual marketplace in recent years. Those people will be forced to buy different plans — sometimes more expensive ones — on the exchanges, directly countering the president’s promise that those who like their insurance plans will be able to keep them under Obamacare.