Officials for the first time released basic demographic information about the people signing up for insurance. Of those who signed up in the first three months, 55 percent are age 45 to 64, officials said. Only 24 percent of those choosing a health insurance plan are 18 to 34, a group that is usually healthier and needs fewer costly medical services. People 55 to 64 – just below the age at which people qualify for Medicare -- represented the largest group, at 33 percent.Officials were hoping for closer to 39% of enrollees to be younger than 35. Since the young does not need as much healthcare, they are needed in the plan to pay for the older folks. But realizing there is no real reason for them to sign up, since the penalty for not signing up is only $95 and since there are no pre-existing conditions, they can sign should a problem arise, so the <35 set are avoiding Obamacare like the plague.
“We think that more and more young people are going to sign up as time goes by,” said Gary Cohen, the director of the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
Republicans quickly jumped on the information as evidence that the administration was still short of its goals for the health care program. Brendan Buck, a spokesman for Speaker John A. Boehner, predicted that insurance premiums will rise.Before next year's enrollment period insurance companies will get to revise their rates based on the actual age split of the people signing up for Obamacare. Based on the initial age splits next year costs are going to go way up.
“There’s no way to spin it: youth enrollment has been a bust so far,” Mr. Buck said. “When they see that Obamacare offers high costs for limited access to doctors – if the enrollment goes through at all – it’s no surprise that young people aren’t rushing to sign up.”
Larry Levitt, a senior vice president of the Kaiser Family Foundation, has said that “the mix of enrollment is much more important than the total number.”
“If you assume that sicker individuals are likely to come in first, then a smaller pool is likely to be a sicker pool,” Mr. Levitt said. “The best guarantee of a diverse pool is a big pool, because that means you are probably reaching younger and healthier people.”
Mr. Levitt said that people enrolling early included some with the greatest needs: people who had been locked out of the individual insurance market because of serious illnesses and those coming from federal and state programs for people with pre-existing conditions.