For 24-year-old Dan Lopez, the $100 penalty for skipping out on health insurance seems like a better deal than the estimated $3,000 annual premium he would have to pay once the Affordable Care Act goes into effect in 2014.
“I don’t feel I should pay for something I don't use,” said Lopez, who claims he rarely gets sick and hasn’t been to a doctor in 10 years. Making $48,000 a year from his two part-time jobs, Lopez doesn’t qualify for government subsidies. Rather, as a healthy young man, he will need to shoulder the cost of policyholders who require expensive healthcare, as the law limits insurance rates for all.
“I shouldn’t be penalized for having good health,” he said.
Policy experts are now worried that many young adults like Lopez will skip health insurance completely, shaking the finances of insurance companies that need people of all ages and health levels to stay solvent.
For college students, rising insurance premiums create an especially large financial obstacle. In order to attend a university or community college, students are commonly required to have health insurance. While some college students are covered under their parents’ insurance, about 3 million 18-24 year olds purchase their own insurance. Many of these students buy basic plans—low-cost insurance is available to students at about $600 a year.
Lawmakers are worried about what will happen when these plans disappear under the new healthcare regulations. New Jersey Assemblywoman Celeste Riley, a Democrat, recently pushed legislation to remove the health insurance requirement at two-year colleges.
“In this one small situation, I have students that really are going to be hit so hard financially,” said Riley. “I think that really some of them will decide not to go to school.”