ObamaCare’s 2015 enrollment period is now in its final month, and my patients have been in for a rough surprise. As the Medical Director of Clayton State University’s student health service, I can safely say that young Americans are facing insurmountable hurdles in their search for the affordable healthcare that President Obama and his supporters promised them.
College students are the hardest-hit demographic when it comes to ObamaCare’s cost increases. Typical 20-somethings in Georgia now face premiums averaging $2,750 per year—a 179 and 108 percent increase for men and women, respectively, over what similar pre-ObamaCare plans cost. That’s a demoralizing reality for college students working their way through school while still having adequate time to devote to their studies.
Georgia’s young are not alone. Millennials—young people between 18 and 29 years old—nationwide are drowning in rising health care costs. Average premiums for 27-year-olds increased in 45 states after ObamaCare went live last fall. Young women saw their health insurance costs skyrocket by an average 62 percent nationwide, while young men paid up to 99 percent higher than they did just one year ago.
We should be encouraging Millennials to save for their first down payment on a home, or free themselves of debt by paying down student loans—which, in Georgia, averaged nearly $25,000 in 2013. Instead, ObamaCare forces them to spend thousands of dollars more for health insurance policies that, in many instances, cover less than the cheaper plans they had before.
The new Republican majority in the Senate should produce legislation to fix this problem immediately. Before that can happen, however, they should understand what’s causing it: The requirement that seniors’ health insurance not cost more than three times that of Millennials.
The supposedly benevolent principle underlying this provision is that seniors shouldn’t have to pay more for health care, even when they disproportionately account for health care spending. The typical 65-year-old spends more than five times what a typical 22-year-old spends in annual medical costs—$9,744 compared to only $1,834 per year, respectively. This 3-to-1 cap thereby forces college students to pay for their grandparents’ medical care, whether they like it or not.
This is inherently unfair. Forcing Millennials to pay more for health insurance because of their age rather than their medical needs amounts to little more than government-sanctioned discrimination.
These cost increases couldn’t come at a worse time for Millennials, either. The unemployment rate for people between ages 16 and 29 today is a staggering 14.7 percent—more than double the national rate of 5.8 percent. And for those college graduates who are fortunate enough to find a job, their starting salaries are lower in today’s dollars than those of both their parents’ and their grandparents’ generations.
With all the problems that they’re facing—problems that older generations have laid at their feet—it’s simply too much to demand that Millennials pay thousands of dollars more every year for their health care.
This problem will increasingly worsen unless ObamaCare is repealed, or at least substantially reworked, by a Republican Congress. Healthcare premiums are going up again in 2015 and are all but certain to rise every year for at least the next decade. Even for those fortunate few whose premiums are not skyrocketing, their deductibles and other out-of-pocket expenses are.
As Congress and the White House begin to debate proposals and legislation to address ObamaCare’s failings, they should remember that Millennials are our country’s future. Penalizing them for years to come is no way to reform our health care system—it’s a cure that’s worse than the disease.
Honeycutt is the medical director for student health services at Clayton State University in Morrow, Georgia. She was an unsuccessful, Republican House candidate for Georgia's 13th Congressional District in 2006 and 2008.