As Obamacare is implemented, there are predictions of significant cost increases for some. This is driven by several issues, including the enrollment of millions of new insureds, many with conditions that haven’t been treated in a long time (pent-up demand), and the apparent reluctance of young, healthy males to enroll.
Regarding this second point, just what did we expect?
Young, healthy males are effectively being asked to fund a “triple subsidy”: The healthy subsidize the sick, the young subsidize the old, and according to Kathleen Sebelius, “men will see costs go up, women will see costs go down”. This is because the policies are being priced without regard to gender.
So is it hard to see why young, healthy males are not attracted to the plan(s)? They are expected to pay significantly into a system that is designed, and priced, for the benefit of others.
Personally, I do not think that criminalizing them or bankrupting them is the answer. Before you say “make them pay anyway!”, ask yourself:
1) if you are older, would you be attracted to a product that is designed and priced to cover serious sports injuries? (not golf injuries, but football injuries).
2) if you are sick, would you be attracted to a product designed for the healthy- say, one that charged very high co-pays and co-insurance for surgery?
3) if you are a woman, would you be attracted to a product designed around the needs of men- say, one that did not cover breast cancer?
So what should we do to encourage young, healthy men to enroll? We might try offering some products that have their needs in mind, such as catastrophic coverage only, or products where maternity and pediatric coverage are optional riders. Having them in the system at some level is preferable to not having them in the system at all. And history is full of plans that failed because only the sick enrolled, which drives up the cost. Do we want a repeat of that?
I am not saying that anyone is good or bad- I am simply saying that we should not be surprised that young, healthy males are rejecting a product that is designed and priced with the needs of others in mind.
What do you think? If you have another idea, please leave a comment and tell us about it!