by Anthony Glosson
"They understand that we don't need to
re-fight this battle over healthcare. It's the right thing to do, that we got 3
million young people who are on their parents' health insurance. It's the right
thing to do to give seniors discounts on prescription drugs. It's the right
thing to do give 30 million Americans health insurance." –Barack
Obama, New York Times,
June 26th, 2012
Much has been made of the purported benefits of President
Obama's health care law for young people and seniors. These provisions have
become a central selling point for the law's supporters. So as a 21-year-old
recent college graduate, I ought to be celebrating this legislation, and the
Supreme Court's ruling in favor of the law today, right?
While supporters are quick to point out the law allows
children to stay on their parents' health plans until age 26 as evidence that
the law is a positive development for my generation, they are not always so
keen on discussing other effects that the law has on us.
One such effect is that the cost of coverage for young
people is significantly increased due to the law's restrictions on the amount
that older Americans can be charged for insurance. So, insurance companies have
a few options: lower prices for older individuals, but keep our rates the same
(and in doing so, operate at a loss), or make up the difference somewhere (read: "Pay up, Gen Y!").
Show of hands for how
many think the industry decides to take the loss?
The problem is compounded by the fact that the higher premiums
resulting from healthy demographics subsidizing less healthy ones will likely
cause many of the former to drop insurance altogether. That is, even if the
cost of insurance is a justifiable expenditure for young people on a limited
income now, it will certainly be less so once rates begin to rise.
But the increased
cost for those of us who choose to purchase insurance is not the only negative
effect my generation will see if the President's health plan is implemented.
For many of us, insurance is not a good investment given our relative health
and the presence of other more pressing financial concerns.
Under the new health insurance law, young people who fit in
that category – and many others who will be pressed into that category by
rising premiums – will all have two and a half percent of their income (or
$695, whichever is more) confiscated annually for the failure to spend our
money on health insurance.
Thus, young people who choose to buy insurance, as well as
those who decide the cost/benefit for purchasing insurance doesn't make sense
for them, both end up poorer thanks to the "Affordable Care Act."
These two consequences show why young Americans get the
short end of the financial stick with this legislation. However, there is a
third consequence that applies to all Americans, and younger ones in
particular. In my view, it is the most problematic dimension of the entire law,
and it is the reason the Supreme Court has given more time and attention to
this case than any other in decades.
This reason is that the individual mandate contained in the
law, in the words of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy: "…changes the
relationship of the Federal Government to the individual in a very fundamental
Today's decision shapes the fate of the nation my generation
inherits. Will our society be one where we, as citizens, may decide which
products we purchase if any at all? Or will it be one where we, as subjects,
must budget our incomes in a way acceptable to the moral and political
sensibilities of our governing-class betters?
Today's decision is a step in the direction of the latter
scenario. Despite the silver lining of Justice Roberts' commerce clause
limitations, the decision to uphold the mandate on tax grounds leaves open a myriad
of questions as to what Congress may now compel Americans to buy under the
congressional power to levy taxes.
The right of every individual to decide how to spend his or
her income in the best way possible is something Americans of every age group
can and should get behind.