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September 29, 2013
Editorial: With dueling Obamacare ads, young people have big choices

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(Sept. 29 -- By the Editorial Board)

Billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch and other super-rich ideologues easily can pay the $7,500 cost of setting a broken leg, or the $30,000 cost of staying three days in a hospital, and they can well afford the best health insurance money can buy.

So it is ironic, disgusting and downright sick that they are spending $750,000 on an ad campaign to scare uninsured young people and persuade them to opt out of Obamacare as enrollment in state exchanges starts on Tuesday. Young people are the group with the highest rates of uninsurance, mostly because they are in entry-level jobs and don't get employer coverage.

One ad shows a sinister Uncle Sam peering between the legs of a young woman during a gynecological exam. Another ad depicts the same Uncle Sam preparing to perform a rectal exam on a young man.

"Don't let the government play doctor," the ads directed at the young say. "Opt out of Obamacare."

So it's good to see that the states and some private entrepreneurs are presenting strong counter-messages.

Washington state has offbeat and quirky "Don't leave it to chance" ads, while Minnesota has an equally quirky "Land of 10,000 reasons to get health insurance" campaign. California is playing it straight with "health insurance is not something to joke about" ads.

And the NerdWallet Health company created a website and has gone through Covered California's website, finding that young adults could pay the same for health insurance as for their cell phone bill - about $100 a month. For some, the company notes, "Obamacare's health insurance will be cheaper than a bus ticket."

NerdWallet Health crunched the numbers and found that a 27-year-old man with a yearly income of about $23,000 - roughly the median income for uninsured adults under 30 - would pay somewhere around $46 a month for the lowest-cost Bronze plan or $101 per month for the lowest-cost Silver plan. In Sacramento, Placer, El Dorado and Yolo counties, this young man would pay $50 for the lowest-cost Bronze plan or $120 for the lowest-cost Silver plan.

Under Obamacare, young people will have more options than any other age group.

Young people can stay on their parents' insurance until age 26 under Obamacare, if they don't get it from a job. Starting Jan. 1, they can stay on their parents' insurance even if they can get coverage through a job.

Alternatively, they can go to the Covered California exchange website and see if they qualify for free or low-cost insurance - from Medi-Cal to a host of private insurance options.

Or they can do as the rich-guy anti-Obamacare guys recommend and opt out of health insurance. In that case, they will pay a Shared Responsibility Payment, in case they get sick or have an accident, and can't pay their medical bills, dumping the cost onto the rest of us. The fee in 2014 will be 1 percent of yearly income or $95 per person for the year, whichever is higher. The fee will increase every year. In 2016, it will be 2.5 percent of income or $695 per person, whichever is higher.

Why would people choose to pay the fee and get absolutely nothing out of it? If they buy health insurance, in contrast, they get peace of mind for the unexpected events of life. The billionaire Koch brothers don't hold out much hope for Obamacare repeal, so they're trying to kill it by discouraging enrollment among healthy young people.

So which will it be? Opting out, paying a penalty and getting nothing? Or being a savvy shopper and getting the best insurance deal you can afford?

Take a look; many Bronze plans are available for less than $50 per month. The Covered California exchange is open for enrollment starting tomorrow, with coverage to begin on Jan. 1.

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