No, Obamacare Won’t Cause Younger Americans’ Premium Costs To Skyrocket

With Obamacare on the pathway towards full implementation, critics have attempted to point out every perceived flaw in the health reform law to marshal public opinion against it. Recently, reform opponents have focused their sights on the rule that prevents insurers from charging seniors more than three times the premiums they charge younger Americans, claiming it will cause young people’s health premiums to skyrocket.

That provision is actually meant to protect seniors, who are costlier to cover, from excessive price gouging. But health reform critics point out that insurance companies may try to exploit the rule to raise prices for younger Americans, making these young people’s health coverage unaffordable. According to a new Urban Institute analysis, however, these allegations are rooted more in wishful thinking than policy reality.

According to the Urban Institute’s findings, the 3:1 premium ratio will have little effect on younger Americans, as “they will be eligible for either Medicaid or tax credits through state health insurance exchanges.” The study goes on to conclude that through a combination of elevated Medicaid/CHIP benefits, Obamacare’s provision allowing adults up to 26 years of age to stay on their parents’ insurance, and the health reform law’s private insurance subsidies for Americans living up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL), younger Americans will not experience the sort of “sticker shock” that the doomsayers have been foretelling:

Most young adults and families will be largely shielded from the full effects of the narrower age rating bands thanks to the ACA’s increased eligibility for Medicaid and tax credits offered through state health insurance exchanges or through access to employer-sponsored insurance. In fact, this is largely true across age groups. Eighty-five percent of policies sold through nongroup exchanges will be to those with incomes at or below 400 percent of federal poverty level (FPL), making them eligible for tax credits.

Looking specifically at young adults age 21–27 purchasing nongroup insurance today, two-thirds will be protected by Medicaid/CHIP or exchange-based subsidies under reform; two-thirds of the remainder are under age 26 and in homes where their parents have employer-based coverage for which they are eligible under the ACA’s dependent coverage provisions.

The study’s findings emphasize both the importance of states taking part in Obamacare’s optional Medicaid expansion and the tendency for Obamacare critics to portray the law as some sort of fiscal bogeyman. Even the media has been complicit in smearing the law, implicitly suggesting that some insurers’ plans to institute double-digit premium hikes are in anticipation of Obamacare’s expansive coverage requirements — they are not. The new Urban Institute analysis is yet further proof that there is a considerable gap between the rhetoric and the reality when it comes to Obamacare.