We’re in the last few weeks of the first major leg of the Obamacare rollout—on January 1st the insurance purchased on the exchanges goes into effect—and we still don’t know how the most important demographic is going to behave: uninsured millennials. Two recent polls paint widely varying pictures about whether Gen Yers are likely to sign up for insurance. The first, out of Harvard’s Institute of Politics, found that 29 percent of uninsured millennials (18-29 year olds) will enroll. The second, by Gallup, found that 68 percent will.As is often the case in these polls, the wording of the questions probably had a lot to do with the differences. In particular, the Gallup poll asked respondents whether they would pay the fine or buy insurance, whereas the Harvard one only asked if they would buy insurance—which possibly suggests that the penalty might be effective in some cases in convincing people to buy.But, more importantly, Gallup and Harvard show the dangers of expressing confidence about expected public action based on opinion polls, especially in a system as complex as US health care. The truth is we really don’t know what the demographic makeup of new ACA enrollments will be until we get the actual results next month. Treat anyone using a single poll to make definite statements about millennials and Obamacare with a generous dose of skepticism.Of course, even if the Obama administration convinces or coerces a sufficient number of millennials to sign up for coverage, the bigger test will how they react to the way the ACA is distorting prices and provider networks. It doesn’t count for much to get Gen Y to sign up if they dislike you ever after for it.
Known UnknownsMillennials, the ACA, and the Vortex of Ignorance