Computer glitches aside, debate over the Affordable Care Act has magnified in recent months with advocates and adversaries vying for the support of Generation Y (ages 18-34). This group, 80 million strong and frequently targeted by marketers and politicians due to its sheer size and influence, is key to Obamacare's financial success. Indeed, at least 2.7 million young "invincibles" need to sign up for the government-run system to offset costs for older Americans who are less healthy. While the public won't know for several months how many young people will opt in for Obamacare, this group-oriented, do-gooder generation is likely to participate, in large part due to their innate desire to help others, including those who haven't been able to afford or obtain health care due to pre-existing conditions. Gen Ys have a "we-volution" mindset; they are wired to participate, even if it means having to spend a bit more than opting for the lower premium catastrophic insurance they could purchase independently. That's because they yearn to engender long-term positive change.
While Gen Ys tend to be healthier than older generations, they still consider health care a relevant topic. According to our "Y Now" Cassandra Report, 65 percent of 14- to 34-year-olds view health care reform as one of the most important issues we face. However, affording health care is a hardship for many. Struggling to land jobs, saddled with debt, and living with their parents, Gen Ys are defined largely by their economic challenges. In fact, 53 percent say that a life of debt and financial insecurity is their generation's new reality.
Moreover, their inherent traits and aspirations drive them to seek alternatives to traditional employment and the health coverage that comes with it. We found that 6 in 10 Gen Ys would rather work freelance than have a traditional full-time job due to the flexibility and independence it affords them. And, nearly 7 in 10 would rather work for themselves than for a company. Taken together, these factors mean they're less likely to have health care benefits and are therefore an important target audience for Obamacare proponents. Conversely, it also means that Obamacare may be difficult for them to afford.
Nevertheless, in speaking with young people on our Cassandra Speaks online research community, we found that Gen Ys mostly support Obamacare since they believe everyone should have equal opportunities, especially when it involves health. Of course, some Gen Ys feel that the system doesn't benefit them personally and infringes on their rights. However, this generation has an abiding belief in the power of collective action. For example, one 32-year-old male explained, "I think Obamacare will have a huge positive impact on our generation and the ones to follow. I know too many people who don't have health care that have to suffer though illnesses... Even if I have to pay more for my insurance, knowing my friends have coverage is enough gratification to continue." Gen Ys strive to make the world better and they tend to believe universal health care enables this.
As such, Gen Ys consider Obamacare a step toward equality since it doesn't exclude people based on their financial status or medical history. While this generation is often labeled selfish and entitled, ultimately, their inherent civic-mindedness, exemplified by their willingness to participate in the system and even pay higher premiums, will determine whether the Affordable Care Act becomes viable.