Not Enough Young People Are Enrolling in Obamacare — Yet

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Only one quarter of those who have selected a health insurance plan under Obamacare are young people, a number that could pose challenges for the law.


Twenty-four percent of people who have selected a plan on the exchanges are between the ages of 18 and 34, according to data released by the Obama administration on Monday. That’s below the target number of 40 percent the White House believes is needed for the law to work properly.

For Obamacare to succeed, younger, healthier Americans need to enroll in plans on the exchanges in order to hold down the costs of insurance plans. If too many older, sicker people sign up, that could drive up the price of plans.


The largest group of people who have chosen plans are between the ages of 55 and 64; at 33 percent.

Still, administration officials were optimistic that their goal would eventually be reached. The report noted that the number of people under the age of 34 who selected plans increased eight-fold in the month of December.

“We’re pleased to see such a strong response and heavy demand,” Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told reporters, according to The New York Times. “Among young adults, the momentum was particularly strong.”

In total, 2.2 million people have selected coverage plans between Oct. 1 and Dec. 28. Today’s data broke out enrollees by age for the first time, an announcement that was highly anticipated because of how critical young people are to the success of the program.


While the enrollment rate for young adults is behind pace, administration officials are not panicking yet. Officials pointed to a Kaiser Family Foundation analysis, which found that the enrollment rate among young people could remain at 25 percent and not trigger a massive increase in insurance premiums.

And administration officials expect more young people — who are less likely to have health problems — could wait until the March 31 enrollment deadline to sign up for a plan. The Washington Post’s Sarah Kliff writes that younger, healthier people may decide to save money by delaying their purchase of a plan, whereas older Americans might need to sign up right away to make sure their medical care is covered.


“We think that more and more young people are going to sign up as time goes by,” said Gary Cohen, a deputy director at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Jordan Fabian is Fusion's politics editor, writing about campaigns, Congress, immigration, and more. When he's not working, you can find him at the ice rink or at home with his wife, Melissa.

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