Monday, November 9, 2009

Were They Duped Or Were They Stupid?

Were They Duped Or Were They Stupid?
Bruce Bialosky
Monday, November 09, 2009

In the 2008 presidential election, young adults voted overwhelmingly for Barack Obama. This voting pattern has generated much discussion and no small amount of head scratching, principally because the main consequence of these young adults’ electoral choice appears to be a huge tax on them. Ultimately, the question becomes: Were they duped or were they stupid?

In late 1999, I went to Washington, DC, for a political forum that included all the Republican presidential contenders. Each candidate made a presentation followed by questions and answers. My question was for Senator John McCain. A significant element of Mr. McCain’s political platform was campaign finance reform. His proposal was similar to what eventually became the McCain-Feingold Act passed in 2001, which limited the amounts that individuals and entities could contribute to campaigns.

I had the first question: “Mr. McCain, I have a deep respect for you as an American and Senator, but could you please explain why you are proposing a law that appears to be contrary to Republican principles?”

This question deeply upset the Senator. He turned to the moderator and mumbled “And when did I stop beating my wife?” As I edged my way back to my seat, Mr. McCain followed me down the stage giving me an earful about how the youth of America was not voting, and that the reason they were not voting was because the campaign financing system in our country was broken and corrupt.

Senator McCain never really answered the question, but he was profoundly incorrect about why America’s youth wasn’t voting, and – trust me on this – I remember being a teenager much better than he does. It really is abnormal for anyone who is 18 years old to be concerned about our electoral system. If they are still students, they are often focused on graduating high school or getting into college. Many of them, regrettably, are more interested in getting drunk and finding someone to bounce around with on Saturday night. People like myself who were interested enough to work on campaigns were the exception – not the norm.

When these young adults finish school, they become most interested in building the foundation of their careers and their future life. It’s usually only when they settle down, buy a home, start a family, and begin to make progress in their careers that they start to realize how expensive government is, and begin to get involved in the political process. It has been this way for generations and is validated by voter turnout.

Barack Obama changed that and it had nothing to do with campaign finance reform. The under-30 crowd identified with him and voted heavily for him. And what has he done to reward that commitment? He is attempting to saddle them with a huge tax increase to cover his health insurance plan.

Most people in this age group carry health insurance. But approximately 18 million do not, because they have made a decision that they would rather spend their money elsewhere. They realize that they have very little need for health care, so they spend their money on other priorities or save it for a down payment on their first home. I did the same thing when I was their age. When I visited a doctor, I wrote a check.

Mr. Obama, Senator Baucus and Nancy Pelosi do not want to give them that choice. They have targeted this group to fund the Democrats’ plans. They have decided that these young folks should pay for the older Americans who actually use most of the health care. It is an easy group to pick on, and no one really believes they will show up at the polls in 2010 without Obama on the ballot.

I believe these young adults should carry catastrophic insurance, at which they would probably not balk, because the cost would be minimal. However, the proposals that are being floated by the Democrats would require them to purchase full-blown insurance that carries a hefty price tag. While this additional revenue would help make the health insurance scheme work, no one is considering the effects of that money being taken out of the economy from where the young adults currently spend it. In particular, nobody is giving any thought to the negative effect upon the housing market caused by the delay of entry-level home purchases because the prospective homeowners will be forced to put their money into the health care system instead of a home.

In addition to being targeted with a large part of the cost of the health insurance proposal, the Obama Administration has put another yoke around their necks. The consequences of the skyrocketing budget deficits will be thrust upon them as they reach their peak earning years, and they will also have to bear that crushing burden.

The 18-30 crowd happily went to the polls to vote for Obama. Political groups that deliver for a winning candidate usually expect benefits after the election. Unions, for example, have already received billions of dollars in federal goodies and trial lawyers have been dutifully rewarded by the absence of even a hint of malpractice reform in the health insurance legislation. The under-30 voters were seduced by Obama, but have now become his whipping boys. His most significant policy proposal is aimed directly between their eyes – and they are soon to be his biggest victims.

Young voters are quickly learning about the electoral process and how it really works. Which brings us back to the question – Were they duped or were they stupid?

The answer is - they were duped and they are stupid!
But wait.......

D.C.'s 'Failure To Launch' National Health Care Policy
Debra J. Saunders
Sunday, November 08, 2009

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee health care bill includes a provision that would allow parents to keep their children as dependents on their health care policies until age 26. Not to be outdone, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced last month that, as Congressional Quarterly reported, the House bill "will allow young people to stay on their parents' policies until age 27."

Do I hear age 28? Why not 30? As long as Washington is giving away private health care coverage, why not eliminate the age cap entirely? The House plan enjoys the support of a new group, "the Young Invincibles," an organization, Pelosi explained "formed to get young adults behind the campaign for health insurance reform."

Eureka. Pelosi has found the way to get young adults behind health care reform -- have mom and dad (or their employers) pay for it. Of course young adults are jumping on the bandwagon.

A few years ago, Matthew McConaughey starred in the movie "Failure to Launch" about a thirtysomething adult who did not want to fly the familial coop. Now the Beltway wants to enable adults to live as their parents' health care wards for years after they've been emancipated.

Forget the old system that allowed adult children to remain on their parents' policies until age 19, or up to age 23 if they were in college, and hence financially dependent. The Washington measures would apply to adults up to age 26 or 27, whether they live at home or not -- as long as they are not married or parents. (And how long do you think it will take for politicians to eliminate those exclusions?)

To my surprise, the insurance industry believes that, if enacted, the failure-to-launch provisions "will have a minimal impact," according to Robert Zirkelbach, press secretary for America's Health Insurance Plans.

In part, the industry accepts this new definition of "dependent" because states have been passing laws extending the wonder years. According to Zirkelbach, Delaware and Oklahoma draw the line at age 18, but it's 22 for North Dakota; 24 in Indiana, South Dakota and Tennessee; 25 in 13 states; and, age 30 in four states, including New Jersey. Also, states have different criteria dealing with residency. The toothpaste is out of the tube; at least a federal measure would provide uniform standards.

As health care expert Steve Zuckerman of the Urban Institute noted, putting young adults on their parents' policies mean more premiums for insurers to cover a group that has pretty low claims.

Besides, a law that would make insurers cover healthy young adults is far less onerous than other congressional provisions, such as the requirement that health care providers cover cancer patients at no extra cost. Ditto restrictions on what they can charge older Americans.

Joshua B. Gordon of the fiscal watchdog group The Concord Coalition, sees "very minimal federal budget implications" -- as there are advantages to adding "young and healthy people" to the ranks of the insured. "It actually saves costs in a way," he added -- a point that has been made by elected failure-to-launch boosters.

It's true that 1 in 3 young American adults lacks health care coverage -- and Washington should try to pass laws to correct the situation. But don't tell me it's practically free. As Geoffrey Sandler testified for the American Academy of Actuaries last year, "Although young people age 19 to 25 generally have lower claims costs than other age groups, increasing coverage to this group will increase claims."

And don't act as if there is something noble about failure-to-launch provisions -- when they do nothing for young adults who have no parents or whose parents don't have health insurance.

"It's a way to get people to have coverage, but without the federal government picking up the tab," noted Zuckerman. But that does not mean there is no cost -- only that employers or employees will have to pay the added cost.

This is where a proposal by the Senate Finance Committee, chaired by Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., to sell low-premium, high-deductible "young invincibles" policies to young adults comes in handy. As Time Magazine reported, such policies "do not constitute full coverage." But if crafted correctly, Zuckerman told me, "the young-invincibles plans could be a good option."

And not just for the sons and daughters of the middle class. It makes no sense, but the so-called caring members of Congress want to avoid the path that paves strong incentives for young-invincibles to take charge of their health care. Instead, they're pushing the "failure to launch" model.

OK so they were duped by the greedy stupids!

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