Moderated by Rick Badie
Millenials accounted for a substantial swath of President Barack Obama’s re-election results. So how do they feel about the president’s Affordable Care Act? Like they’ve been sold a bill of goods, writes the president of a conservative nonprofit who cites sticker shock as the reason why. Meanwhile, two other authors tackle U.S. health care: One says Obamacare provides young people medical options they never had, while the other author criticizes veterans’ care. To comment, go to: http://blogs.ajc.com/atlanta-forward/
Obamacare picks our pockets
By Evan Feinberg
President Barack Obama has a problem with millennials. We brought the votes and the noise in 2012, but the honeymoon may be officially over.
Young Americans were once the most enthusiastic supporters of the Affordable Care Act. Now, they’re the law’s most ardent foes. A recent poll shows 57 percent of people between 18 and 29 disapprove of this law; only 13 percent of my generation “definitely” plans on signing up.
What turned us against the law we once liked? Reality. When Obamacare finally came a-knockin’ in October, our government gave us a choice between having our pockets picked or opting out. Guess which one we chose?
At the end of the day, Obamacare hurts millennials more than it helps. Just look at what it does to our wallets. After the exchanges opened, we found that the average premium in Georgia for an average 27- year-old had increased dramatically.
In Georgia, they went up by 286 percent — an extra $123 every month. All told, we’re now paying just under $2,000 a year. Millennials saw rate hikes in 45 states.
We already struggle with an average of $35,200 in student loan debt. Our average income is much lower than that of our parents’ and grandparents’. Our unemployment rate, at nearly 16 percent, is more than twice the national average. We need every extra penny we can save.
Either the White House hasn’t noticed this inconvenient truth, or it’s unwilling to admit its existence. The administration is covering it up with a public relations campaign. The Department of Health and Human Services recently spent millions on a competition begging millennials to make positive videos and songs about Obamacare. The winning entry was a catchy song that urged millennials to “forget about the price tag” and just sign up.
Once that tactic failed, Obama reached out to us himself. The White House recently hosted a “Youth Summit” specifically targeted at 18-to-35 year-old activists (I’m still waiting for my invitation). He told us “stuff that’s worth it is always hard” and, “at the end of the day,” we’d “think it’s worth it.”
The sentiment is nice, but what’s more important is what the president left unsaid. The unspoken truth is the exchanges won’t be able to make ends meet without our money. The onus is on us to subsidize the system, regardless of whether we can afford it.
The president didn’t tell us that. Instead, he looked into our eyes and told us he knows better than us how we should spend our money and live our lives.
He must have forgotten he was talking to the “young invincibles.” Treating us like children won’t convince us to sign onto a bad deal. We’re also smart enough to know we have other options, like purchasing insurance from the private market that gives us the coverage we want at a price we can afford. As for Obamacare, we’re just not buying what the president’s selling.
Evan Feinberg is president of Generation Opportunity.
Affordable Care Act offers options
By Cindy Zeldin
Large majorities of young adults say they need and value health insurance, yet people in this age group are far more likely to be uninsured than children, seniors, or older adults. Thirty-five percent of Georgians between 18 and 34 are uninsured. How can something so important be so elusive?
Until now, the health insurance of millenials had largely been neglected by public policy, leaving them with few options that provided adequate benefits at an affordable cost.
Most Americans get health insurance as a workplace benefit. They get a substantial employer contribution and receive these benefits on a pre-tax basis. Today’s young adults, however, are entering the job market in a tough economy. They are less likely to land jobs with health insurance. They often cobble together internships and part-time work to gain experience and make ends meet. For too many young adults, there simply has been no viable pathway to coverage. Thankfully, the tide is turning.
An estimated 3.1 million young adults nationwide — and 123,000 here in Georgia — have gained coverage as a direct result of an Affordable Care Act provision that allows parents to keep their children on policies up to age 26. This popular and effective public policy change was just a first step. The new health insurance exchanges will provide options for young adults who previously had nowhere to go.
These plans provide decent benefits and, in many cases, access to tax credits to make them affordable. The tax credits, available to individuals with annual incomes between $11,490 and $45,960, can be taken either at the time health insurance is purchased or at tax time. Some moderate-income individuals also can get help with out-of-pocket expenses.
For millennials who had been underwhelmed with the health insurance options available to them in the past, this is a breath of fresh air. For example, maternity coverage had been nearly impossible to secure in the Georgia non-group market for young couples ready to start a family. Now, this important benefit will be available.
While it is true some young adults enrolled in old plans may see higher premiums, many of those old plans didn’t provide adequate protection. Further, young adults who had a pre-existing chronic health condition were locked out of the market entirely, a practice insurance companies must discontinue.
The private insurance plans available through the exchanges won’t meet the needs of all young adults in Georgia. Those who have incomes that place them below the poverty line will likely remain uninsured unless Georgia expands its Medicaid program.
Most young adults want what Americans of all ages want: the peace of mind that comes with knowing that an unexpected cancer diagnosis or accident doesn’t equal financial ruin, and that they have access to basic medical services. The new coverage options are finally leveling the playing field for this generation. It’s about time.
Cindy Zeldin is executive director of Georgians for a Healthy Future.
Veterans’ care subpar
By Pete Hegseth
If Georgians want to know what government-run health care looks like in practice, they need only ask me or one of Georgia’s 776,000 veterans. The Department of Veterans Affairs thanks us with a health care system that can deliver sub-standard care and a bureaucratic nightmare.
The most obvious problem is VA’s disability claims backlog. According to the department, it has just under 700,000 claims in its system. More than half — 400,000— have been in the queue for more than a third of a year.
These claims aren’t just numbers. They’re veterans who need medical attention. Politicians from the president on down have promised to help us get the medical help we need in a timely manner. Yet the backlog remains as stubbornly high as ever. VA still missed out on its FY 2013 goals by a full 100,000 claims.
Like Obamacare, many of the VA’s problems are technological. For instance, the department still handles 97 percent of its claims process via paper.
Other problems get to the heart of health care itself. Many veterans describe their interactions with VA as “Delay, deny, wait till I die.” For instance, every day, 22 veterans commit suicide, yet at least a third of us have to wait at least two weeks for a mental health check-up.
The wait times can be even longer for more serious conditions. In a preview of what awaits average patients at standard hospitals, a CNN investigation last month described veterans’ plight best: “Military veterans are dying needlessly because of long waits and delayed care at U.S. veterans hospitals.”
Charles Skipper’s story is case in point. A retired member of the U.S. Army, he served in Vietnam during the late 1960s. His tour of duty earned him two Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star and a lifelong battle with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Skipper is an American hero, yet he has been routinely mistreated by VA. He submitted a disability claim more than six years ago. Today, he is still waiting for an update. All he could say to me was, “If you really want to know what Obamacare is going to be like, just look at the VA system.”
It’s a travesty that Skipper’s situation exists at all. But instead of rectifying it, Washington has poured billions of dollars into a nationalized health care system that may well bring his pain to millions of others.
Those politicians should devote efforts to fulfilling the promises they’ve made to veterans. If they won’t do that, then the politicians who passed the Affordable Care Act should at least answer one simple question: If they can’t fix VA, what right do they have to “fix” health care for the rest of the nation?
Pete Hegseth, an Army veteran, is the CEO of Concerned Veterans for America.