Since its launch on Oct. 1, the Obamacare rollout has encountered many failures, especially when it comes to the website, Healthcare.gov. However, perhaps of most concern to the White House is declining support among young people for President Obama’s signature legislation.
Recent polling shows that those between the ages of 18 and 29 aren’t supporting Obamacare. A Harvard study also reported that only 13 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds are opting to enroll in Obamacare.
In a desperate attempt to regain youth support, the White House scheduled a variety of events targeting youth and even held a “Youth Summit.” The focus of these events was to encourage young people to sign up and promote the law, since the administration knows that this population is crucial to Obamacare’s success. During the “Youth Summit,” the president even went so far as to encourage bartenders to host a happy hour to entice young people to sign up in the exchanges.
The White House has known what the mainstream media is finally starting to report: Without enrollment from at least 30 percent of healthy young people, all those who signed up in the exchange will see extremely high deductibles. Obamacare needs young people.
Given the fact that young people were among the president’s most avid fans, their waning support is more than just a problem for the White House — it is also an opening for conservatives. The aforementioned polls show that young people are becoming more and more disenchanted with the Obama administration and its policies. This disenchantment also seems to be leading to a distrust of government programs, as well as of government in general, among millennials.
In a recent survey launched by Young America’s Foundation and conducted by the polling company inc., more than 60 percent of college-age students feel that government should not take an active role in their day-to-day lives, and half of respondents think that the federal government is mostly hurting economic recovery. Today’s young people are experiencing firsthand the failures of socialist policies, and they are eager for pro-freedom, limited-government solutions.
The White House and Obamacare architects claim that young people aren’t enrolling in the exchange because it has lacked a strong public-relations campaign. This claim couldn’t be further from the truth. Obamacare has been one of the most publicized programs and has earned an abundance of free media.
Young people are not signing up for Obamacare because they don’t want it — not because they don’t know about it. Today’s youth have been saturated with information on Obamacare for more than three years, but that seems to have had little effect on their support for the law today.
Millennials are tech-savvy and enjoy surfing websites that are convenient and accessible. Ever since its launch, Healthcare.gov has been a failure. No matter what kind of public-relations campaign the White House runs, young people are not going to be attracted to a website that doesn’t work. Unfortunately, despite the president’s assurances, navigating Healthcare.gov has been far more difficult and much less secure than “shop[ping] for a plane ticket on Kayak or a TV on Amazon.”
The real issue, however, is that many young people feel let down by Mr. Obama and his administration. Obamacare has been ridden with nothing but broken promises. There is no incentive for young, healthy people to enroll. The costs are too high, and plans include coverage most young people don’t need or want.
The White House should take a long, hard look at the polls and realize that millennials are informed, distrusting of big government and not buying what they are selling. Conservatives should use this as an opportunity to provide the market-based and limited-government solutions today’s young people are looking for.
Ashley Pratte is program officer for public relations at Young America’s Foundation.