THE BLOG
12/09/2013 09:09 am ET Updated Feb 08, 2014

Millennials Will Not Sign Up for Obamacare

Millennials will not sign up for Obamacare or the Affordable Care Act.

Regardless of the term used to describe the new health care law, less than one quarter of young people ages 18 to 29 say they will definitely or probably enroll in insurance through an exchange, according to a poll from the Harvard Public Opinion Project released Wednesday morning.

The Obama administration expected 7 million Americans to enroll in the health reform program and 2.7 million of them to be in the 18-29 age bracket. Enrolling this young demographic is crucial for the health care plan to be successful because health care costs rise with age. So, healthy young people paying for insurance would initially be supporting the older generation with more costly health care bills. Millennials would pay for insurance without using much of the health care benefits until later in life.

The data shows that millennials still do not think insurance is worth the cost. Of the 22 percent of millennials who do not currently have health insurance, just 29 percent say they will enroll in Obamacare, 25 percent say the same under the Affordable Care Act. Opposite its intentions, the health reform plan has not incentivized young people to buy insurance.

The low percentage of young people willing to enroll runs parallel to data that reveals millennials think the health reform will raise costs and undermine quality of health care. Between 50 (when asked about ACA) and 51 (when asked about Obamacare) percent of young people say their cost of care will increase under the health reform law, while only about 10 percent think it will decrease health care costs regardless of the term used.

Fourty-four percent of millennials say their quality of care will worsen under the ACA, while only 17 percent say it will improve. (40 percent said it will worsen and 18 percent said it will improve when referred to as Obamacare.)

Young people's skepticism of Obama's health reform program does not bode well for the administration, which has faced major scrutiny since the rollout of HealthCare.gov in October. Technical issues with the website coupled with low initial enrollment rates have hurt the public perception of the health care law.

What's in a name?

Over half of millennials disapprove of the health reform program regardless of the term used -- 56 percent under the Affordable Care Act and 57 percent under Obamacare. Still, the Harvard poll suggests millennials view the two names differently on some matters.

In the last couple of weeks, Democrats have been trying to to phase out the term 'Obamacare' for fear it has developed more negative connotation than the official term 'Affordable Care Act.' This may be a good strategy to target uninsured millennials -- among all respondents who currently do not have health insurance, individuals were 6 points more likely (48%-54%) to think costs would increase under Obamacare than the Affordable Care Act. The same group had a 9 point higher approval (44%-35%) of the health reform program when called the Affordable Care Act instead of Obamacare.

The move away from the term 'Obamacare' might help convince the group of millennials unsure whether or not to enroll--those who considered themselves 50/50 on whether they would enroll were 5 points (46%-41%) more likely to approve of the Affordable Care Act than of Obamacare.

There may still be hope for the Obama administration as 40 percent of uninsured millennials responded their likelihood of enrollment in insurance through an exchange was 50/50. If the Obama administration can convince millennials on the fence to enroll, it could have positive implications for Obama's approval rating and the success of the first universal health care initiative in America.

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