Why Millennials Should Opt Out of Obamacare

Or how the Affordable Care Act is like that scene from Training Day.


Psst…Hey kid, want some universal healthcare?

Sometime back in 2001, Denzel Washington brought his ’79 Monte Carlo to a dead stop in the middle of a bustling LA intersection to hold a gun to Ethan Hawke’s head. “You turn shit down on the street, and the chief brings your wife a crisply folded flag,” he says, referring to Hawke’s refusal to smoke a bowl of PCP-laced pot at Washington’s request. Ultimately, our hero relents and takes a heroic puff, sending him on a trip from which he likely would never recover. And all that just to prove he’s down.

However unlikely it is that director Antoine Fuqua had that scene from Training Day in mind as an allegory for the establishment of universal health care in the US, he accomplished just that thanks to the recent institution of the dreaded Obamacare act. We need only to think of that PCP as the ACA, Denzel as President Obama, and Ethan Hawke as the perpetually downtrodden millennial generation—the traffic jam Denzel Washington created, meanwhile, is our ongoing federal shutdown. The outcome of that particular situation can only be bad for the guy doing the smoking.

The difference, however, is that millennials haven’t just yet touched the lighter to the bowl—although we’ve certainly taken the pipe. According to a poll from Morning Consult, just one in 10 millennials are committed to enrolling in services offered by the Affordable Care Act. Good thing, too, because—like being forced to smoke PCP to join a narcotics unit—it’s a pretty raw deal.

While the ACA promises easier access to treatment at less of a cost for us 20- and 30-somethings, the data available today say otherwise. According to the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, the average monthly insurance rate in Pennsylvania alone stands at $107, a number that would increase to $151 for Americans aged 27 or older once Obamacare goes into effect in 2014 according the White House’s own site. That’s a 41 percent increase—but it’s nothing compared to states like New Mexico and Arkansas, which face increases of up to 130 percent and 235 percent, respectively.

Further, analysts expect that, even with cheap plans (or “bronze,” as the program refers to them), it’s a disproportionately expensive system for millennials. As Bob Graboyes noted on US News, millennials 27 or older could, thanks to their cheap plans, see up to a $5,000 deductible, along with an out-of-pocket max charge of more than $6,000. At an income of $25,000, which is what the ACA bases some of its packages on, then “cheap” healthcare eats up as much as 30 percent of that salary.  And that’s on top of higher taxes, poor job prospects that will only get poorer (read: part-time work, tops) and a massive student loan bubble.

Just as Washington coerced Hawke’s cooperation with his PCP stunt, so too does that seem to be the tactic of the Obama administration with its healthcare option. But while Washington needed Hawke’s obedience to cover up a shooting, Obama simply needs millennial support to subsidize a system that largely benefits older, more-ill Americans—AKA the Boomers. All at a great personal cost to ourselves.

On average, this new plan will see young people’s insurance increase by upward of 169 percent, but older people will see healthcare costs go down by 22 percent. The result is millennials—should they enroll—footing the bill for aged Americans who could easily afford their healthcare costs comparatively. That, of course, explains President Obama’s goal to recruit some 2.7 million millennials aged 27 or older, without whom this program will fail—and miserably so. We are, essentially, the patsy Hawke to Obama’s Washington.

So what’s the solution for millennials? The same thing that Ethan Hawke should have done when presented with a pipe packed with a powerful dissociative: opt out.  A study from the National Center for Public Policy Research found that roughly 3.7 million millennials would save $500 on an opt-out; another 3 million would save more than $1,000.

In terms of cost-benefit analysis, opting out is the only move that makes sense—and, luckily, our judgment isn’t clouded by PCP (yet). After all, the only real benefit millennials see in this program is being able to stay on their parents insurance until 26, after which it becomes cheaper simply to pay the fine and move on. In fact, as time goes on, lifetime premiums are more likely to continue to increase for young adults, as Forbes noted over the summer. Kind of takes the kick out of that “But you’ll benefit someday!” argument we’ve seen pop up in the press lately.

It’s tough for logic to fight emotional desire, though. In Training Day, Hawke got wet to be part of Washington’s team—to belong, to do well by someone he looks up to and wants to work with. If we’re smart, millennials won’t be so eager to please their captain. Otherwise, we’re going to find ourselves on an even worse trip—and Denzel won’t even be there to guide us along.

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  • Dave Maynard

    How pray tell is this tagged as news? It’s an opinion piece.

  • JD Anywhere

    Pay the fine and move on, but without insurance. Hope you don’t smoke. You only feel invincible.

  • anonymous

    According to a bunch of conservative/right-leaning sources…

  • anonymous
  • thethetk

    Jesus, really, Philly mag editors? Was this approved by the same team that brought us “Being White in Philly”? You let someone with no apparent policy, econ, or health beat cobble together a bunch of links to right-wing think tanks funded by the Kochs to tell kids not to get health insurance? This is dishonest trash. And lazy “reporting” to boot.

    • thethetk

      Also, what “higher taxes” is the author referring to on people making $25k/yr? Is that just a thing he made up?

  • anonymous

    “17 of the 19 million uninsured young people are, in theory, eligible for either subsidies or Medicaid under Obamacare”


    • thethetk

      The person making $25k/yr would qualify for subsidies that limit out of pocket premium expenses to a fixed percentage. Healthcare will never cost 30% of someone’s salary once the subsidies are accounted for.

  • Charles S.

    Wow. What a terribly hyperbolic analogy. A shining example of editorial bias in the news. This might be a good thing to post on facebook, but certainly not as news.

  • SJD

    Your next column: awesome drivers should “opt out” of car insurance.

  • Fred Farquar

    The collapse of the American healthcare system is proceeding according to plan.

  • Jan D

    My 26 year old son’s health insurance premium is going from $73 per month to $243 under his proposed ACA renewal policy. If that small microcosm isn’t an indictment…BTW, no changes to plan or his health status.

  • Down the drain


  • Kit

    Who’s the dummy who wrote this article? Must have failed in math in grade school.

    30% of $25,000 is $7500. That would make it $650/mo.

    Under Obamacare, health insurance for a 27 year old making around $25,000 would start at $90/mo, not $650/mo.

    The argument is that an unhealthy 27 year old would have to spend $7500 a year with deductables. Well, I guess an unhealthy 27 year old can spend up to $1 million if s/he doesn’t have insurance and needs a major sugery. I guess $7500 with insurance is a lot better than $1 million without insurance.