What President Obama’s Hilarious Appearance On Between Two Ferns Teaches Us About Obamacare

Barack-Obama-Between-Two-FernsPresent Obama’s viral interview on Zack Galifianakis “Between Two Ferns” was both funny and informative, thus deserving the buzz it generated. To his credit the President has consistently shown an ability to engage his electorate at their own level via their preferred media, a nice change from his predecessors who would complain about the lack of engagement in politics but not do anything about it. Both the content of the interview, and the fact that the President felt it was needed in the first place, can teach us about the current state of Obamacare and the problems it continues to have.

Critics of the interview have focused on the President’s line that young people  “can get coverage all for what it costs you to pay your cell phone bill.” This line, which the President often uses, is hard to substantiate. It contradicts the Obama administration’s own figures that “a 27-year-old with income of $25,000 will be able to get such coverage for $145 a month.” Verizon is generally believed to be the costliest wireless provider, and a single line plan with unlimited voice and texting and 2GB of data costs $75 a month (a figure that generally lines up with national cell phone billing data). If you want to do your own research, the Kaiser Family Foundation has a handy calculator that lets you enter your age, state and income level, and get an estimate for the monthly cost of enrollment. Play around with it and you’ll see the President’s math is hard to justify.

The point here isn’t to nitpick the numbers or get into a semantic argument, but to show one of the key shortcomings of this appearance and the President’s other attempts at getting young people to sign up: if you are promoting something that has shaky credibility, and you use dubious arguments that your target audience will realize might not be true, you end up hurting your cause.

Even more revealing than the content of the interview is the fact that the Administration felt a need for it in the first place. As you have probably heard, Obamacare has not enrolled enough young people. That is why the President has dispatched his wife to promote it on Jimmy Fallon, enrolled celebrities that appeal to young people (including a former member of N’Sync) and made appearances such as ‘Between Two Ferns’. The question nobody asks is why young people haven’t signed up.

Nobody needs to tell young people to buy a cell phone, or to go to college, despite the hefty cost. So why do we need to keep trying to convince them to sign up for Obamacare? The answer, which virtually all of the supporters of the ACA have admitted at one point or another, is because Obamacare is a bad deal for young people. We know that because the system was designed to force young and healthy people, who seldom seek medical treatment, to sign up or face penalties.  If something is a good deal, like having an iPhone or getting a college degree, young people spend their money on it voluntarily. You only need a  a penalty for not buying something when its a bad deal.

But don’t take my word for it, just look at the arguments made by the law’s proponents. The whole idea of insurance is that a group of people put money into a pool, and those that need it take it out. If a specific group is expected to put in more than they’ll take out, that insurance is a bad deal for them.

Google “Obamacare needs young people” and you’ll see 90 million results, including all sorts of smart people effectively admitting that Obamacare is a bad deal for the young and healthy. You’ll find reports like this one on CNN explaining how Obamacare needs all these young people to put money in then not take any out. You’ll even find Bill Clinton (with Barack Obama at his side) saying “this only works..if young people show up..we gotta have them in the pools.” Even the President himself,  during the interview with Galifianakis, says this about young people: “if they get that health insurance they can really make a big difference.” You buying insurance “making a difference” for someone else means its a bad deal for you, as you are both taking money out of the same pool.

Some argue that young people should sign up anyway, because if something catastrophic happens to them then the insurance will save them lots of money. Again here Obamacare defeats itself. Since the President keeps telling young people that they can still sign up for Obamacare even if they have a pre-existing condition, then they might as well not sign up today while they are still healthy and wait until after something goes wrong.

To summarize the problem in the same lingo that the President and Galifianakis bantered in, lets say you are the kind of person that always takes beers to a party. Lets also say that a bunch of people really want you to go to a specific party, but you find out that the only reason they invited you in the first place is because you bring more beer than you drink, and if you don’t show up the guys that drink lots of beer but don’t bring any won’t have as much fun. Might you then decide not to go to this party, and just stay home and watch Funny or Die videos by your favorite comedian?

 

 

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