Short Takes On News & Events

Young Adults Value Health Insurance, Poll Finds

By Jordan Rau

June 19th, 2013, 5:55 AM

A strong majority of young adults, whose participation in the health law may be key to its success or failure, strongly believe health insurance is important for them and worth the money, according to a new poll.

As some states and the federal government prepare new online marketplaces for people to purchase insurance this fall, the willingness of young people to buy coverage has been a topic of great uncertainty. Their participation in these marketplaces is considered crucial, since the young tend to be healthier than older people and, therefore, will use fewer medical resources, allowing their premiums to help subsidize the care of the old and sick.

Among age groups, the young are considered the hardest sell on insurance, because the coverage mandated under the 2010 health law is more comprehensive — and therefore more expensive — than the catastrophic policies that many now obtain. Young adults are considered more likely to believe they won’t suffer any horrible illnesses or injuries — a trend that has led to them being labeled “young invincibles.”

The poll found some reason to believe that the young may not shun the health law requirement that they hold insurance starting next January. More than 71 percent of adults 30 or younger say having health insurance is “very important to them,” according to the poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation. (KHN is an independent program of the foundation.) When the pollsters put the question differently by asking whether “insurance is something I need,” more than 74 percent of people under age 30 agreed.

Two-thirds of those 30 or younger agreed with the statement that “insurance is worth the money it costs,” although the pollsters did not offer those polled any dollar figures for an estimated cost. Liz Hamel, an associate director of the foundation’s polling unit, said the goal of the question was to elicit people’s general attitude toward insurance cost, not to attempt to predict whether they would ultimately take up coverage. In addition, she said, it would be hard to offer a set figure for premiums, given that they will vary among states and the size of a person’s family.

Also, two-thirds of these young adults said they worried about paying medical bills in the case of a serious illness or accident, and more than 44 percent said they were concerned about medical bills from routine care.

“The large majority of Americans want and value health insurance,” the pollsters wrote. “More than seven in ten young adults – a special focus of outreach and enrollment efforts — say it is very important to them personally to have insurance. Cost remains the biggest barrier for the uninsured, with four in ten citing the expense of coverage as the main reason they don’t have it.”

The poll also indicated that the Obama administration, states and health care advocates have much to do to make people aware of the new health insurance exchanges that are being created for people who don’t get coverage through an employer. Forty-five percent of people polled said they had heard “nothing at all” about these marketplaces, and 34 percent said they had heard “only a little.” Low-income people and the uninsured knew less about the marketplaces than did their more affluent and covered counterparts, the poll found.

The poll found that once again opposition to the health care law is greater than support by a margin of 43 percent to 35 percent. The poll also found that names matter significantly in this discussion. Calling it “Obamacare” rather than the “health reform law” pushes the partisan buttons, causing more Democrats to say they favor it and more Republicans to say they oppose it. Most substantially, the number of Democrats saying they favor Obamacare is 73 percent, while only 58 percent of Democrats favor the “health reform law.” Republican opposition to the law rises by 10 percentage points if it is called “Obamacare,” with 86 percent of Republicans taking a dim view of the nicknamed program.

The survey was conducted June 4 through June 9 among 1,505 adults through landlines and cell phones. The margin of error is +/- 3 percentage points, with higher margins for subgroups.

4 Responses to “Young Adults Value Health Insurance, Poll Finds”

  1. Lenny says:

    Apparently not in Texas where 1 in 4 residents don’t have health insurance. Thank goodness we have the southern states that still believe secession and the civil war were great ideas and that don’t get too carried away with the notion that good health is an absolute necessity. Uh, I’ll have another another can of pop and a cigarette please!

  2. killroy71 says:

    We will see in 2014 and 2015 whether their deed match their words.

    Here’s my fear, established in a 2009 survey — people wouldn’t pay as much as a cheese pizza every week:

    A new Quinnipiac University national poll finds that a slim plurality of voters would pay more to reform the healthcare system – 49 percent who would versus 45 percent who wouldn’t. But of those willing to pay more to reform healthcare, 72 percent did not want to pay more than $500 a year.

  3. Newt Barrett says:

    But, the obvious question to have asked is: Do you currently have health insurance? Does their behavior match their opinion?

  4. RBalboa says:

    Can we break down the results by income levels? And how many of those who value health insurance had an incident in the last 2 years? What about those without incident? If I had no incident and was paying these premiums as a youth I sure wouldn’t value insurance. I have trouble believing these results.