Experts: Affordable Care Act beneficial for young people


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Health-care experts said they view the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act as an effort that gives all Americans health insurance — but opponents are still not persuaded.

The experts said the health of young adults in America relies heavily on the individual mandate, a provision in the bill that requires all Americans to purchase health care.

"Young and very healthy people usually view health care as expensive and not beneficial," said Peter Cram, a University of Iowa associate professor of medicine, noting the high health-care premium costs. "Many think 'why pay for something you don't need,' so a lot of the very young choose not to get insurance."

Cram's statements come as the U.S. Supreme Court hears a case that will determine the law's constitutionality. Opponents have said requiring Americans to purchase health care is unconstitutional.

Ian Millhiser, a policy analyst and blogger with the Center for American Progress, said the idea of government mandates in health care is not new. Congress has imposed mandates for a long time through Medicare, he said.

"The way that Medicare works is Congress takes your money — taxes — and then after taking money, uses your money to buy health insurance for you," he said during a conference call with reporters Tuesday. "Either through a government program, that's what traditional Medicare is, or for privatized program, that's Medicare advantage, Medicare Part D are."

The only difference with the Affordable Care Act — what some opponents call Obamacare — is it cuts out middle man, he said.

The Affordable Care Act consists of several major health-insurance reforms, most of which will unfold through 2014. The law has already expanded coverage to include those with pre-existing conditions, provide more funding for state Medicaid coverage, and giving more prescription-drug assistance to seniors on Medicare. The law also allows those under 26 to stay on their parents' insurance.

"The problem is if, say, that person is in a motorcycle accident and has no insurance, the hospital has to treat that patient for free and charge everyone else more," Cram said. "The person who is not purchasing insurance is essentially living off the goodwill of everyone else."

But Mark Lucas, the Iowa director of Americans for Prosperity, said the Affordable Care Act "attacks" young people.

"The biggest impact on young people is that Obamacare bars insurance companies from raising rates on sick people and from excluding people with pre-existing conditions," he said.

Costs are raised for young people to afford adding these people, he contended.

But though some experience an increase in costs the costs are more evenly distributed, experts said.
Peter Damiano, the director of the UI Public Policy Center, said the individual mandate allows for a bigger pool of insured people.

"Really, there is only about 6 percent of the population that are going to be affected by the individual mandate," Damiano said, arguing that a majority of the 6 percent want the insurance. "The argument that [the mandate] is like forcing people to eat broccoli is so far off."

But opponents said the bad outweighs the good.

Tony Malandra, a spokesman for the National Federation of Independent Business, said the individual mandate is a dangerous road for the country.

"Small businesses always bear the brunt of the health-care crisis in America," he said. "This law does nothing at all to ameliorate that."

And Lucas said the law will negatively affect younger Americans in the long run.

"This is a bad thing for young people just like Social Security is bad for young people," Lucas said. "We have seen how the government has failed in Social Security. Young people have to stand up and say it's our money, and we will make the decisions best for our lives."

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