Youth of the nation: More young people urged to sign up for Obamacare to reduce rates



Significantly more people between the ages of 18 and 34 signed up for health insurance through the federal exchange in December, but far more need to sign up by March in order to keep markets stable.

According to data released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services this week, 24 percent of the 2.2 million Americans who have signed up for insurance through the federal exchanges are between ages 18 and 34.

While that is likely a significant leap forward, about 40 percent of those eligible for insurance through the exchanges are in that age range, according to a December study by the non-partisan Kaiser Family Foundation.

Getting young people to sign up for Obamacare, as the law is commonly referred to, in large enough numbers is crucial to keeping rates low.

"For this system to work, young people need to enroll in sufficient numbers to produce a surplus in premium revenues that can be used to cross-subsidize the deficit created by the enrollment of older people," the study reads. "If that does not occur, premium revenues will fall short of expenses and insurers may seek to raise premiums the following year."

For that reason, getting young people to sign up is one of the Obama administration's key focuses regarding the president's signature legislative achievement.

The law has been plagued by rollout issues, including a faulty exchange website and some insured Americans being dropped from their plans for not meeting the law's standards.

While the law is in better standing today, Americans' trust in the law and in the administration's ability to implement it have been damaged, polls reveal.

This would mean Congress and the administration would work on ways to fix the law through legislation, but a bitterly divided legislative branch makes that prospect nearly impossible, said James Hill, a Central Michigan University political science professor.

"This law has been so politicized that I see no chance that significant legislative revision will take place while President Obama is in office," Hill said. "Tweaking and administrative improvements are all that are likely to occur in the next three years."

What you need to know about Obamacare

- Are you age 26 or younger? Do your parents have health insurance? The law allows dependent coverage to stay in place for children until the age of 26. This provision is already in place.

- If you buy insurance through the exchanges, you must have that insurance in place by March 31. Failure to do so in many cases will result in a tax penalty.

- Penalties will increase each year, beginning this year with a $95 penalty per person or 1 percent of annual income. Those numbers will increase to $695 or 2.5 percent of annual income by 2016.

- People exempted from having to sign up for health insurance include those with taxable income below 133 percent of the federal poverty level, or those with income too low for filing a tax return ($10,000 for an individual, $20,000 for a family).

- People who have to pay 8 percent or more in annual income on insurance after accounting for tax credits will also be exempt. Individuals in these groups could qualify for Medicaid, which has recently been expanded to more than 400,000 low-income Michiganders.

- Members of federally recognized American Indian tribes are also exempt from the penalty.

- In order to help people afford their insurance, subsidies are available for Americans between 139 and 400 percent of the federal poverty level. The size of the subsidy is dependent upon how close individuals or families are to the poverty line, meaning lower-income Americans will receive larger subsidies.

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