By Justin Sink - 02/25/14 03:06 PM EST
The White House said Tuesday it wasn't worried it wouldn't be able to sign up enough young consumers on the ObamaCare exchanges, despite enrollment numbers that continue to lag behind initial projections.
"We believe, based on the data we've seen thus far, and based on the experience that Massachusetts had, in the closest thing to a model and precursor to the Affordable Care Act at a state level, that we will achieve that necessary demographic mix for the exchanges to work effectively," White House press secretary Jay Carney said.
Earlier this month, the Department of Health and Human Services said 27 percent of enrollees were between the ages of 18 and 34. In September, the administration forecast that 38.5 percent of total enrollees would be within that age range.
Healthcare experts have warned of a "death spiral" if not enough young, healthy adults buy into the ObamaCare marketplace to offset the cost of insuring older and sick Americans. A study report by the Kaiser Family Foundation showed that four of 10 enrollees would need to be between 18 and 34 years of age to prevent a rise in premiums in subsequent years.
Still, the same report found that, if a quarter of enrollees fell within that age range, insurers would only need to raise premiums by 2.4 percent in 2015, and the ObamaCare legislation includes protections to account for some amount of imbalance among enrollees.
Carney did said the administration didn't need four in 10 enrollees to be young for the exchanges to "function effectively." But he declined to say what the administration's firm goal for young enrollment was.
The White House spokesman also said the administration long expected younger voters to be among the last to purchase insurance.
"Young people tend to be late signers-up. They tend to come at this very late. And, hence, as we telegraphed way in advance, there is an enormous effort aimed at reaching young people to make sure they are aware of all the options available to them," Carney said.
During an appearance last week on "The Tonight Show," first lady Michelle Obama pitched the insurance plans to young consumers.
"Young people think they're invincible," the first lady said. "But the truth is, young people are knuckleheads. They're the ones who are cooking for the first time and slice their finger open, they're dancing on the bar stool."