By William Patrick | Florida Watchdog
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — When it comes to Obamacare sign-ups, Florida is tops among the 34 states with federally run health exchanges.
For many, that’s cause for celebration.
But, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ latest enrollment report, it’s also a cause for concern.
Only 24 percent of Florida’s enrollees are within the coveted 18 year-old to 34-year-old demographic. In contrast, more than double that are older than 45.
The so-called millennials are critical to the financial solvency of the exchanges. The Obama administration originally estimated 40 percent of enrollees need to be young and healthy to offset the costs of older, sicker enrollees.
Florida’s 442,000 total sign-ups also pale in comparison to the state’s 3 million or more uninsured. It’s further unclear how many enrollees have actually paid insurance premiums or were previously covered prior to selecting an exchange plan.
Where are the millennials?
Enroll America, a well-funded group with ties to the Obama White House, is banking on last-minute sign-ups.
“Our research and past enrollment efforts make it clear that many people — especially young adults — will wait until right before the deadline to sign up,” says a recent statement on the group’s website.
Before the Dec. 31 deadline, HHS reported a significant uptick in exchange sign-ups and Medicaid enrollment. Critics say the spike was due largely to newly increased website capacity at the glitch-ridden healthcare.gov.
Anne Filipic, president of Enroll America, said in a statement Wednesday the Obamacare outreach group is holding 3,000 sign-up events throughout March — that includes daily enrollment activities in Miami, Orlando and Tampa Bay over the next two weeks.
Generation Opportunity, a conservative youth group, acknowledges some people may be procrastinating, but says the low enrollment numbers are more likely because young people see that Obamacare isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
“It’s a bad deal for young people,” Corie Whalen, spokeswoman for Generation Opportunity, told Watchdog.org. “There’s a built-in disincentive for us to sign up.”
That disincentive is paying more for health insurance than actual risk assessments dictate for the younger age group.
“The way Obamacare calculates coverage, young people are unfairly targeted because we’re healthier. It doesn’t fairly calculate risk,” said Whalen. “Even if the subsidies look appealing on paper, the total cost still amounts to a transfer of our payments to other people.”
The latest HHS report indicates nine of 10 Floridians are eligible to receive government financial assistance. Only North Carolina and Arkansas have slightly higher rates, at 91 percent.
Generation Opportunity says Obamacare’s employer mandate and compliance regulations are contributing to high youth unemployment. Whalen noted 15.8 percent of millennials are either unemployed or underemployed, making it even more difficult to pay high out-of-pocket insurance costs.
“Young people are stuck with (the law’s) economic consequences,” she said.
Using Kaiser Family Foundation data, the website NerdWallet.com reports health-care expenses for healthy young people who are uninsured in 2014 will be five times less costly than for people enrolled under the Affordable Care Act.
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