Originally published 11/27/2010 in the Saturday edition of the Orlando Sentinel
On September 23, 2010, one of the first phases of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also dysphemistically known as Obamacare, was implemented. Now that I am entering my twenties, I have taken much interest in section 2714 of the legislation that requires the healthcare providers of parents to extend coverage to their children until they reach the age of twenty-six; regardless of dependency; regardless of student status.
Many would say that I should be happy about this. I can get free healthcare for the next six years. I don’t even have to be going to school. I can even enjoy these benefits long after I’ve moved out. Or as the president says, I can put total focus on my career and future; no longer having to worry about the setbacks of a costly injury; no longer having to worry about going broke due to high monthly premiums.
But at what cost? In order for insurance companies to afford this, the price of healthcare for others will have to be increased. This increase in premiums can be concealed to an extent. People who have employer-provided health insurance will experience slower wage increases; some may experience pay cuts. Business owners may try to cover these increased costs by reducing the expenses of other production costs. In other words, they may be forced to cut corners and dilute the quality of their goods and services.
Someone will have to eat these costs, no one will want to, and the costs will be shifted onto the least expecting. At this point, ten different people will give ten different answers for who is to blame.
The government is trying to improve my life; I get it. However, it is being done at the expense of others. I feel like apologizing to every person I encounter today. In one way or another, everyone will eat these costs.
Will my life really be improved by this? In the short-term, maybe. As for the long-term, the president, however well-meaning, is taking away my incentives to be a productive, mature person. He is postponing my adulthood. Under section 2714, I will still be considered a child for the next six years. The moral hazard will be unavoidable, no matter how aware I am of it, and my behavior will be altered. The existence of this policy and knowing that I can continue mooching off of my parents’ healthcare will make me less likely to stay in school and it will reduce my incentive to provide for myself. To what degrees I don’t know, but I do know my adulthood is being postponed and that I will remain a child longer than I would have without section 2714.
My concerns swell when I read that some 2.4 million people around my age will also be affected by section 2714. What will this mean for America’s future if the members of my generation will be more likely to drop out of college, knowing that they can still get free healthcare? What will the future look like if the members of my generation, up into their late twenties, have a reduced incentive to provide for themselves and an increased incentive to be dependent on their parents and a paternal government?
In a period where America is continually losing its comparative advantages in the world market, in a period where much of the world seems to be pursuing the American dream as America abandons it, should we really be removing young people of the motivations to be responsible and prosperous?