The news and social media have been all atwitter over the Harvard Institute of Politics poll showing the opposition of millennials (18–29 year olds) to Obamacare, and some media BooBs (Boosters of Barack) are downright despondent. Take John Dickerson (please!), Slate‘s chief political correspondent, who wrote recently that Obama’s “dream of improving the economic condition of millions of Americans” depends on his ability “to move your 27-year-old son Joey to get off the sofa, open his laptop, and buy insurance.”
“But if everything rides on the president inspiring Joey,” Dickerson laments after considering the Harvard survey, “things don’t look good.”
Fifty-seven percent of millennials disapprove of it. By a 5–1 margin they believe that health care costs will increase, and by 2–1 they think the quality of their care will worsen. Among 18- to 29-year-olds currently without health insurance, less than one-third say they’re likely to enroll in the Obamacare exchanges.
A closer look at the Harvard Institute of Politics survey data, however, reveals some facets of millennial opinion every bit as interesting as the 57–38 disapproval of Obamacare. That 38% approval, for example, was as high as it was only because 68% of young blacks approve of Obamacare, compared to only 28% support by young whites.
The Harvard pollsters also cleverly divided their respondents into two groups, using “Obamacare” in questions to one and “Affordable Care Act” in questions to the other. Usually the differences were trivial, but there were two revealing exceptions:
1) As mentioned, 68% of black millennials supported “Obamacare,” but only 62% supported the “Affordable Care Act.”
2) Young Democrats are more likely to enroll in “Obamacare” than the “Affordable Care Act.” Of the 22% in the sample currently without insurance:
Less than ten percent of Republicans plan to enroll in an exchange, less than 20 percent of Independents — and between 35 and 40 percent of Democrats, depending on the name associated with the law. Obamacare proves to be five percent (40% definitely or probably enroll) more beneficial when Democrats are considering enrollment compared to the Affordable Care Act (35% definitely or probably enroll). [Emphasis added]
Apparently the White House’s “three week rebranding campaign” to avoid use of “Obamacare” and substitute “Affordable Care Act” may have backfired among its black and partisan young supporters, who prefer the version with their Dear Leader’s name attached.
Finally, an omission from the Harvard Institute of Politics survey unintentionally highlights a stereotype that is nearly universal in all the discussions emphasizing that Obamacare’s health and even survival depends on its ability to attract young and healthy enrollees.
Young people are no doubt generally healthier than old people, but not all young people are healthy. Attracting sick young people to the exchanges may actually do more damage to the insurance rate structure than sick geezers, since more of the sick young will need care and treatment longer. Thus it would have been interesting to learn how many of the millennials planning to enroll have pre-existing conditions that prevented them from getting insurance.