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Why Conservatives Must Re-frame Health Care Debate for Young Americans

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

Since 2014, when most health insurance requirements established under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) were fully implemented, the cost of health insurance has increased for every significant demographic. According to a study by HealthPocket, Inc., average monthly premiums for U.S. women age 30 increased 35 percent from 2013 to the end of 2014. Men of the same age saw premiums rise a whopping 73 percent.


Many older Americans also witnessed significant cost bumps for health insurance premiums over the same period. Women age 63 experienced premium cost increases topping 37 percent, and premium prices for men of the same age rose 22 percent.

Premium increases for middle-age and older Americans, while significant, pale in comparison to those felt by young people. Health insurance premiums under Obamacare have risen nearly 45 percent for many young women and by an astounding 78 percent for young men. All this despite the fact that the National Association of Insurance Commissioners says health care costs for 63-year-olds are five times greater than for 22-year-olds.

Despite growing costs for younger Americans, support for President Obama and ACA continues to remain noticeably higher among young people compared to other demographics. According to a July survey conducted by the Associated Press-GfK, roughly half of Americans between 18 and 30 approve of Obama’s job performance, compared to only 43 percent of all Americans.

A Gallup poll conducted in April shows only 18 percent of Americans age 18 to 29 believe the ACA has hurt them or their family members, the lowest number of any age group surveyed. Notably, young people also were more likely to claim Obamacare helped them compared to those who said it hurt them. Every other demographic had more respondents say Obamacare has hurt them compared to the percentage that said it helped.


The reason for the large gap between perception and reality for younger Americans is partly due to ACA’s provision that allows young people to stay on a parent’s health insurance plan until age 26 or, in some cases, 27. But the real reason young people continue to support Obama’s failing health care policies has more to do with how ACA opponents frame their arguments against the Obama administration.

Young people have been shaped by a variety of factors – such as the Internet, social media, and high levels of student debt – that never affected their parents and grandparents. But the one that has most reshaped the way young people think about health care is the left’s takeover of the American education system.

From a very early age, young people in public schools across the nation are trained to believe rich people are greedy, money is evil, and “sharing is caring.” It’s a world where students are demonized for being concerned about the national debt and the tremendous costs imposed by bloated bureaucratic government programs.

It’s no wonder then that all of the studies, news stories, and detailed analyses produced by the pro-liberty movement are having little effect on young people compared to older demographics. At the end of the day, even if young people know Obamacare isn’t working efficiently, they have been brainwashed for 20 years or more to believe cost effectiveness isn’t what is important: helping people is. And if Obamacare seems to be helping people, then young people will continue to support it, regardless of the cost.


If those who support a free-market health care system want to convince young people to support a different version of health care reform, they need to present Obamacare’s problems, as well as solutions to those problems, that focus on how ACA hurts people, not just how it costs too much money.

Just one of the many ways this can be accomplished is by showing that increased government involvement in the health care industry leads to longer wait times, shortages of doctors, and ultimately more suffering and untimely deaths.

For instance, contrary to the claims recently made by presidential candidate and real estate tycoon Donald Trump, the government-controlled health care system in Canada has led to terrible and dangerous average wait times for patients needing hip, knee, or back surgery. The average patient needing one of these treatments must wait 42 weeks, according to a study by the Fraser Institute. The same study also showed patients needing neurosurgery must wait an astonishing and life-threatening average of 31 weeks for treatment.

Canadians, do yourselves a favor: If you slip and fall, seriously hurting your back, neck, or head, go to America. Even if it takes you a whole week to make it there and another month to see someone, you’ll still likely be treated much faster than you would be in Canada.

As Forbes writer Avik Roy points out, government controls and a universal health care system in Scotland led to significantly lower cancer survival rates compared to patients in the United States. For instance, 60 percent of patients with colon cancer in the United States survived five years, while only 46 percent survived in Scotland over the same period. Over time, that difference translates to tens of thousands of additional lives saved.


By focusing on how government interference directly causes harm to all people, including those who are most at risk, pro-liberty health care reform advocates shift the focus from cash to compassion, which is right where they need to be to reach young people.

Justin Haskins ( is a pro-liberty writer, an editor of publications for The Heartland Institute, and editor of the Consumer Power Report.

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