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Capitol Comment

    Obamacare Really Needs You, Hipsters.

    Hipsters have a problem. 

    Well, a few problems. The Postal Service reunion was somewhat less than the spectacular event they expected. Urban Outfitters has not yet predicted the decline of the high-waisted, butt-exposing Jorts they've been pushing all summer. That Tumblr about Hot Dog Legs is still getting more hits per day than their David Bowie facial paint fan site. But most importantly, they're absolutely necessary to the continued success of Obamacare's health exchanges and they just won't cooperate.

    Robert Bauer is young, lean and healthy - just the kind of person the government wants to buy into its new online health insurance marketplaces.

    Bauer doesn't see the need. The 24 year old, a 2011 graduate of the University of Minnesota, works in organic farm fields three days a week, and prides himself on eating well. He's uninsured - health coverage just hasn't been part of his lifestyle....

    While Bauer generally doesn't fear a health crisis, the people building insurance exchanges worry about Bauer and the millions of other healthy Americans whom they fear may simply opt out. The marketplaces are a key part of the federal Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Younger, low-risk people are needed to offset the costs of covering older, sicker Americans.

    "It's important for everybody to participate all of the time and to pay an average amount in premiums so that when something happens to one of us -- we have a baby, we get cancer... that will require thousands of dollars of care, the money is there in the pool," said Karen Pollitz of the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation. (Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the foundation.)

    To put it in a way that hipsters might understand (or, sort of), these exchange zombies are in desperate need of brains, and the delicious, supple gray matter of the young is required to feed the insurance exchange monsters in order to give the monster the capacity to also consume the worn out, liquidy brains of our geriatric parents.  If that isn't clear enough; in order to have any financial viability, the exchanges require that young, healthy, easy-to-insure people are contributing into the system to compensate for the cost of insuring the old and the permanently disabled, and those with pre-existing conditions who were kicked out of the insurance pool before because their medical bills were unsustainable for most insurance companies. 

    Forbes nicknamed the desperate attempts by the Obama Administration to convince young people that buying into the exchanges - even if they are prohibitively expensive - the "War on Bros." In fact, Obamacare only works if more people are actively paying into the system than taking money out, otherwise, insuring every single American becomes unsustainably costly - which is, of course, passed on to both consumers and taxpayers. As Forbes found out, an unmarried, childless 25-year-old male sees almost no benefit to buying into the health care exchanges (in fact, it's far cheaper to buy private insurance now and pay the fine for not having insurance later), but the system as a whole benefits.

    The greater problem, as Kaiser found, is that young people see health care as too expensive for its respective value to their lives. Even if it costs only a small amount, most Americans under 35 see little advantage to buying into the system as opposed to, you know, buying a roomful of vinyl and a small collection of vintage band tees. That might be a theoretically dangerous position to have, but our understanding of basic freedoms means that they're free to choose the more dangerous option, and it turns out, they're exercising that choice.

    Now the Administration is faced with courting hipsters and convincing them that paying for their parents' state-run nursing homes is valuable. And despite all the information they had on hand to convince young Americans to vote for their favored candidate, they seem remarkably tone deaf once plopped down into this new landscape. Their first effort? Trying to get nagging moms on social media (even moms that weren't technically theirs) to harangue them into visiting the Administration's health care fact sites. 

    Strangely, young, independent people found that to be less than convincing.

    Their next effort? Going where they thought the hipsters would be, from inside Porta-Potties at Portland's summer music festivals (they quickly discovered that primary concerns involving not touching anything and not dropping your concert stash in a public toilet superceded concerns about health care exchanges) and those recyclable paper sleeves they put on coffee cups (no one saw them). Now, they're sponsoring a music video contest which is sure to end well. 

    The Obama Administration has forgotten one key element of youth culture: they don't want to do what their parents tell them to do. Try as you might to sneak it into Saturday night club mixes and ironic slogan tee shirts, Obamacare is the establishment's solution to something hipsters don't see as an establishment problem. And, in the end, that $100 a month makes far more sense as six cases of PBR than as a payment to Cover Oregon