Trying to sell selfishness to the ‘young invincibles’


Kansas City Star

So I say to my 21-year-old son, “you might want to think about . . .”

Fill in the blank. Ironing your shirt before going off to a job interview. Phoning the utility company to make sure the lights won’t go out in your college apartment. Whatever. The kid is quick with a shrug and slow to take advice from his mom.

Perhaps the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and/or FreedomWorks will have more success.

Young adults in their 20s and 30s, the so-called young invincibles, are at the forefront of the struggle to either enact or torpedo Obamacare.

President Barack Obama’s administration needs them to sign up for the new health insurance exchanges, the statewide marketplaces in which private insurers will provide policies to virtually all comers. The insurers need a broad base of young, healthy people paying into the exchanges so they can afford to treat sick people.

And so Health and Human Services and outside groups are rolling out a full-scale campaign to reach the coveted demographic. They’re hitting social media, holding contests and placing messages wherever they think young people might be around to receive them.

Obamacare opponents have their eye on 20- and-30-somethings also. If they can persuade enough young adults to stay out of the exchanges, maybe they can tank the entire plan. Or so the reasoning goes. They’re arguing that Obamacare will mean extra expenses for some young people. Even with discounts, it may be less costly to pay an annual fine — provided you stay out of the doctor’s office.

FreedomWorks, a conservative advocacy group, has designed “Obamacare draft cards” and encourages young adults to burn them, preferably in the public square.

“The whole scheme is enlisting young adults to overpay, so other people can have subsidies,” Dean Clancy, a FreedomWorks vice president, told Washington Post reporter Sarah Kliff. “That unfairness reminded us of the military draft.”

Seriously, now. Asking people to buy insurance is nothing like sending them off to war. But let’s look at the rest of what Clancy said. FreedomWorks is telling young people they should refuse to participate in a system that asks something of them so that others can benefit. Never mind that the “subsidies” might be life-saving medical treatments. They want young people to buy into the sense of aggrievement we see so much of in politics today, where every attempt to help another is viewed as an attack on one’s way of life.

I don’t think the victimhood pitch will fly with the young invincibles. Theirs is a generation that has been eager to volunteer and to work to solve society’s problems. They aren’t in it all for themselves.

Then there’s this: Young adults participate at high rates in their employers’ health care plans, even when it means giving up a portion of their paychecks. They’re paying something so that older co-workers can get medical care at a reasonable cost. Exactly how the exchanges are designed to work.

Also: This group is very smart. They’ll quickly figure out that if they stay out of the exchanges and pay a fine, they spend money and get nothing for it. By paying somewhat more they get medical care.

My hope for my son is he’ll graduate from college and land a job with health insurance. If that doesn’t work out, the Affordable Care Act enables him to stay on a parent’s insurance plan until age 26. After that, the exchanges will ensure that he can have a health insurance policy regardless of the twists and turns of life. That frees up younger people — and older ones, too — to be more entrepreneurial and risk-taking.

Young invincibles understand they’re not invincible. Polls have shown that as many as three-fourths of them think it’s important to have health insurance. They are smarter and better than the cynical appeal being pitched by Obamacare opponents.

Barbara Shelly is a columnist for the Kansas City Star.

©2013 The Kansas City Star

Read more From Our Inbox stories from the Miami Herald

  • Why the Islamic State (or ISIS, or QSIS, or ISIL) has so many names

    The Guardian reports that an influential Egyptian group has requested that Western observers make a crucial nomenclature change. Egypt’s Dar al-Ifta, which the Guardian describes as “a wing of the Egyptian justice ministry … [and] a source of religious authority both inside and outside Egypt,” says that it’s not appropriate to refer to the self-proclaimed “Islamic State” that’s currently fighting in Iraq and Syria. Instead, according to Dar al-Ifta, we should call them “al-Qaida Separatists in Iraq and Syria,” or alternately QSIS. You can learn more by following the group’s “Call it QS not IS” social-media campaign.

  • Why do some hostages die and others are released?

    This last week’s deeply contrasting stories of two New Englanders caught in the Middle East’s maelstrom of violence — the savage murder of James Foley and the joyous release from captivity of Peter Theo Curtis — point to a central question: Why do some hostages die while others are released?

  • Rick Perry’s comeback headed off at the pass

    It was all going so well for Texas Gov. Rick Perry — until the indictment. His efforts to move past a disastrous 2012 presidential run that had become a reliable punch line for a senior moment seemed to be working.

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category