Health Exchange Needs Millenials

Jan 27, 2014

New enrollment data on the number of Virginians signing up on the federal health exchange is raising concerns the Affordable Care Act is unworkable – and the concerns aren’t just coming from Republicans.

More than 40,000 Virginians signed up for health insurance on the federal exchange last month. Only 27% of those were young adults – the group needed to fund the new system.

Northern Virginia Democrat Jim Moran says he doesn’t think those numbers are going to get much better.  “But I’m afraid that the millenials, if you will, are less likely to sign up. I think they feel more independent, I think they feel a little more invulnerable than prior generations. But I don’t think we’re going to get enough young people signing up to make this bill work as it was intended to financially.”

If Moran’s prediction is correct the whole bill could unravel. He says there just isn’t enough incentive for healthy young people to sign up for insurance.  “And frankly there’s some legitimacy to their concern because the government spends about $7 for the elderly for every $1 it spends on the young.”

While he supports so-called Obamacare, Moran would rather have put everyone in the nation under Medicare. That would have been expensive, but it also would have avoided this problem. Now Moran is running short on solutions.  “I just don’t know how we’re going to do it frankly. If we had a solution I’d be telling the president right now.”

Virginia Republican Congressman Morgan Griffith says the Obama administration is ignoring all the glaring flaws being exposed as the law continues to roll out.   “So it’s kind of like they’ve got these rose colored glasses on and they’ve convinced the Senate that ‘if we just keep pretending everything’s okay, everything’s going to work out.’ That’s the same thing they did before they launched the website.”

Griffith continues to stand by his party’s key campaign plank from the last election: repeal and replace.
 “So I think there’s some really significant problems that are going to continue, so I think we need to repeal and start over.”

House Republican leaders have yet to unveil a counter proposal to so-called Obamacare, but their party has cast more than forty votes to repeal, defund or delay the law. Virginia Republican Scott Rigell has supported that strategy in the past, but he says it’s time for his party to come up with proposals to improve the law. “I think the outright repeal and replace, that battle has been fought – that is still my preference – but in terms of a legislative strategy that’s not realistic. That’s simply acknowledging the political reality and the lay of the land.”

While most Republicans remain focused on dismantling the law that was upheld by the Supreme Court, Rigell says he thinks his party will eventually stop being so rigid.   “There will be increasingly I believe a willingness to work together across the aisle to reform and improve and address some of the most serious defects in the legislation, in the act, because its law right now. There’s not a question of whether it’s law or not – it is law.”

But Rigell doesn’t have many Republican allies in that effort. Northern Virginia Democrat Gerry Connolly says he doesn’t see the law improving until more Republicans show a willingness to work with his party in good faith.  “The problem is are we ever going to have an honest debate about fixing it as opposed to sly and not so subtle attempts to just repeal it, gut it, trash it. Because I think the other side of the aisle is terrified that it might work.”

With this year being a midterm election the health law is once again going to be front and center in the nation’s heated political discourse. As for the policy discourse? That may have to wait until after the elections.