Young Invincibles on Obamacare: ‘We’re Not Impressed’

Obama speaks about healthcare in Washington
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U.S. President Barack Obama pauses while speaking at the White House Youth Summit on the Affordable Care Act in Washington December 4, 2013. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

The White House’s beleaguered attempts to woo young people into buying into the new health care law just hit another snag: The ‘young invincibles’ just aren’t that into it.

More than half (57%) of 18- to 29-year-olds said they disapprove of the new law, according to a Harvard study released Wednesday — ironically, the same day that President Obama gave a speech encouraging them to give the new law a chance. In the same survey, 41% of millennials said they aren’t too thrilled with Obama himself either. The president’s approval rating was down 12 points from when the study was conducted last year.

The survey’s findings paint a picture of a young population disenchanted with the new law. About one-third of respondents said they think the law would make no difference to their current health care, while 40% said they thought it would make it worse. To cover all its bases, Harvard went so far as to present two sets of poll questions — one that called the law by its official name, The Affordable Care Act, and another by its popular nickname, Obamacare. The results were nearly the same for both.

The White House clearly knows it has a youth problem. The question is whether it’s too late to win them over. They’ve already tried keg-stand ads and implored mothers to guilt their kids into signing up.

And in what seems like a last-ditch effort to get youth on board, they’re running an “Open Mic” contest with millennial-focused blog PolicyMic, in which they will take submissions from 20-somethings on ways to improve their public outreach and education strategy around Obamacare.

The timing is far from ideal. The initiative was meant to run shortly after the launch of Healthcare.gov, the federally-run health marketplace, on Oct. 1 but was pushed back after the site’s many and much-publicized glitches came to light, according to PolicyMic. A White House spokesperson confirmed the partnership with PolicyMic Thursday, but wouldn’t give more details.

Through Dec. 11, anyone registered at the site can submit an idea for projects that will help the White House better educate young people about health care. Readers can then vote, Reddit-style, for different submissions by giving their favorites a “mic.” The three ideas with the most votes will be sent to the White House, which has promised to respond to them by the end of January. 

Whether any of the ideas will be put to work is up in the air.  But there’s no denying the glaring lapse in communication between lawmakers and the young people they’re so desperate to engage with.

In one of the many posts written by young people on PolicyMic, Autumn Harbison, a lawyer from Kentucky, nails the real problem on the head.

“Obamacare isn’t broken, education about it is,” she writes. “Millennials are being urged by the White House to buy health insurance yet we are the demographic least familiar with the ACA.”

--Have a health care story to share? Drop me a line at mandiw@yahoo-inc.com.

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