On the hook


Two years ago, millions of young voters were enthusiastically behind Barack Obama's proposals to impose massive new federal controls on America's health care system.

Now that the president has signed sweeping health insurance regulations into law, some of these young voters are suffering from an unexpected malady: buyer's remorse.

Multiple analyses of the legislation confirm that young adults, who like everyone else will be required to buy insurance or pay a penalty tax come 2014, will carry much of the cost-shifting burden.

The law prohibits insurers from charging older customers more than three times as much the young. Today, people in their 50s and 60s are typically charged six to seven times as much as the young because those in their teens and 20s rarely need to see a doctor, while citizens in their 50s and 60s impose much higher demands and costs on the system.

Because insurers no longer will be able to raise premiums so much as their customers get older, they'll have to charge higher premiums from the get-go.

Rand Health, a research division of the nonpartisan Rand Corp., determined people younger than 35 who are buying individual insurance will wind up paying about $42 per month more when the law takes effect four years from now. Milliman Inc. estimates that young males will see average premium increases of 15 percent. Other groups predict premium hikes of up to 50 percent for the young.

Yes, many Americans in their late teens, 20s and early 30s will qualify for Medicaid, federal subsidies and tax credits to offset those premium increases -- or the full cost of health insurance. And many will choose to remain on their parents' policies through age 26, as allowed by the new law.

But a large share will wind up seeing a healthy chunk of their income vanish as a result of this federal intrusion. And they'll have to make the necessary sacrifices as they struggle to build careers and increase their income in the aftermath of the worst recession in decades.

Perhaps many of Mr. Obama's young supporters knew they'd get stuck with this bill -- perhaps these voters are pleased with the fruits of their labor and will return to his side in 2012 when he seeks re-election. But Mr. Obama shouldn't be surprised if his young fan base decides to declare generational war instead.

The lesson here? Be careful what you wish for. Sometimes, you just might get it -- good and hard.

 

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