The story of America’s poor, elderly population is a myth. Actually, you're probably way more broke than your silver-haired relatives.
As Obamacare marketplaces have opened up around the country, young Americans are facing a mandated health care system for the first time in history. And not only are they facing the harsh reality of having to start paying for insurance that they might not even use, they are getting guilt-tripped about why they must participate. As the general arguments go, it's for the sake of patriotism, and for the elderly who need it.
As it is designed, about one-third of Obamacare’s new recruits must be young and relatively healthy in order to keep insurance rates from skyrocketing, and then effectively making it a failed policy. The problem is, these relatively healthy people are those who are least able to currently afford the plans.
According to Pew Research, in 2011, eleven percent of households headed by people 65 years or older were officially under the poverty line, compared to 22 percent for those headed by someone under 35 years old.
Back in 1967, the poverty rate for seniors was 33 percent, and 12 percent for those under 35. The numbers have now essentially flipped. When today’s seniors (and those about to enter retirement) were younger, they were far better off than today’s youth.
This whole debate about the legacy that Boomers will leave millennials? Yeah. That has already begun.
And the first test might just be Obamacare.
WILLING, AND UNABLE
Yes, the federal government is providing subsidies for people buying on the marketplace who make between 100 and 400 percent of the federal poverty line. But even with the subsidies, paying for coverage can take hundreds of dollars a month out of your pocket.
It presents an existential question: Why the hell should I pay money for something that I probably won’t even use?
In 2011, a full 37 percent of households headed by someone under 35 had no positive net worth, meaning it was either zero, or even negative. This is a generation of people living check to check, and month to month.
In that position, opting out might not be much of an decision at all. It might seem like the only viable option.
Millennials are already suffering in the wake of a recession, and having to deal with an abysmal job market on college graduation, plus a flaring student loan crisis. A full one third of millennials regret even going to school altogether, largely because of the debt they carry.
An added complication to the goal of getting young America to sign up is organizations like Generation Opportunity, spreading the anti-Obamacare gospel through college campuses and encouraging young “invincibles” to opt out of health insurance altogether.
The issue with the opt-out crusade is that there is something inherently flawed in its ideology. It fails the basic mom test — every mother wishes a good health care plan for her child. Anything that fails that basic test simply reeks of ill will, and should be looked upon with skepticism.
Because regardless of how we might feel about how we might get there, all Americans should agree that we would all have health care coverage in an ideal world. And as for the youth, we know that the system might be depending on us, and we might even agree with Obamacare and expanded health care — in principle.
But when it comes to actually paying for it, this is one broke generation that has some real soul-searching to do.
Daniel Rivero is a producer/reporter for Fusion who focuses on police and justice issues. He also skateboards, does a bunch of arts related things on his off time, and likes Cuban coffee.