Open Phones: Young Invincibles and the Obamacare 'Death Spiral'

Thursday, October 03, 2013

One of the keys to making the Affordable Care Act sustainable is convincing young, healthy people to sign up for coverage. If not enough do, then the system could go into a "death spiral" where costs outpace payments. Are you one of these "Young Invincibles" -- no longer on your parent's health insurance, but maybe willing to go without coverage because you're still healthy? Whether you're leaning towards signing up or thinking about paying the penalty, tell us your story -- call 212-433-9692 or post below.

Comments [62]


If you use one of the 'ACA calculators', you will see that for a single person making between 11,000 and 15,000 (AGI Income and not Gross Income), the cost for a cheap policy can be close to or even ZERO.

Oct. 06 2013 12:18 PM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

"And today? You get a diagnosis of Cancer? You better be married to a millionaire...cause no amount of money stuffed in a mattress will save you."

Witness Steve Jobs.

Oct. 03 2013 12:49 PM
Lonnie from Brooklyn!!!

For Caller Naomi--

While I can understand the dislike of the personal mandate for healthy young adults...the 'History' of Self-sufficiency she THINKS she remembers of her Grandparents time is a Hollywood Movie Fiction.

Back then, as in the 1940's. If you had not enough money: The Hospital did not admit you. The Surgeons did not operate. Back then, when Aunt Tillie passed away...the Phrase: "The Doctors did everything they could..." was not part of the process. Aunt Tillie just died. No Medical professionals were involved...except for the Morgue or Funeral Parlor director who did the burial autopsy.

And I remember my neighborhood in the early 60's...There was a Funeral Parlor every 5 blocks. And the Business was VERY GOOD. People should think about what that meant...

And today? You get a diagnosis of Cancer? You better be married to a millionaire...cause no amount of money stuffed in a mattress will save you.

Oct. 03 2013 12:04 PM

The lowest cost plans available may be cheaper than suggested during the broadcast. I don't have access to the NY exchange but according to this preview article individual catastrophic only coverage starts at about $170 and it sounds like that's before subsidies. If so, I suspect that after subsidies that could be had for just over $100.

Oct. 03 2013 11:57 AM

Janine: We have a democracy. The structure of Congress overall favors rural areas. Corporations and the rich have too much power. So a truly sweeping switch to some kind of fully single payer - meaning tax bases - syatem is impossible. Im-poss-i-ble. The ACA is a big step in the right direction, and does indeed have many measures to lower costs over time. Maybe after a decade or two a majority will want to take the next step. Moving in the right direction does not mean we cannot move more steps in that direction in the future.

Oct. 03 2013 11:45 AM
Michelle from Manhattan

I'm totally with Mandeep.

I'm a little frustrated with technical failures on the NY exchange site though. I've been trying to register since it opened, and have succeeded in logging in, but the drop-down menus for County and State don't work. I can't move on to the next step without entering this information. I've tried three different browsers and Mac and PC platforms. Anyone else having this problem?

Oct. 03 2013 11:44 AM



Oct. 03 2013 11:43 AM

I'm a healthy 32 year old, but in the past ten years I've experienced 2 food poisonings, pink eye, an infection caused by a cyst under my right arm, acute pharangytis (where my throat was so sore I couldn't swallow) and an emergency tooth extraction.

We all need health coverage regardless of age.

Oct. 03 2013 11:43 AM
Tiffany from Putnam County, NY

I'm a 34 y/o female who owns a very small business. I employee 2 part-time college students, and I'm the only full time employee. I was previously unable to get a group plan for my business because it's required that we have 2 full-time employees in order to get a group plan. So, I've had a "hospital-only" plan for emergencies that costs me about $190/mo. Just from my initial exploring of the NY exchange, I will be able to get a comprehensive plan for around the same price per month! I tried signing up yesterday, but the site is still overwhelmed with other NYers - but that's ok with me. This is worth waiting for!

Oct. 03 2013 11:40 AM
nustita from Queens, NY

The caller who hopes to have a baby in the next couple years pointed out that women often get the short end of the social policy stick, and in that sense I think ACA will make a big difference for us. Many women want to switch to part-time work after the birth of a child so that they can stay in the workforce and support their family while also having time with their baby during that critical first year. And yet very few employers will continue providing health insurance for part-time workers, if they let you move to part time work at all. In my case, I have a 3 month-old and am going to be on a part-time schedule through the end of the year. I am fortunate in that my partner's employer will allow me to be on his health insurance, even though we are not yet married. But his employer's policy could change at any time. It is a relief to know that ACA is now available. For young parents, being uninsured is not an option; any illness could wipe out your family's finances.

Oct. 03 2013 11:36 AM

Old people pay for education of our youth - even if they NEVER had any children. Asking young people to pay for healthcare insurance is very much the same type of societal cost sharing. We are all investing in the well being of our society. Just wish we had a single payer system instead of an insurance system.

Oct. 03 2013 11:35 AM
mc from Brooklyn

jgarbuz: just curious, how will charity hospitals stay afloat? The non-profits are taking a beating now.

Oct. 03 2013 11:34 AM
Joe from nearby

@ lady caller who claims "the government is raping us"-

Except for what you said about the Wall St bailouts, everything else was seriously incorrect. Please, before you exercise your vote next time around, PLEASE do your research & correct the disinformation that someone has been spoonfeeding you.

You'll be doing your country a kindness.

Oct. 03 2013 11:34 AM

Carmen from Brooklyn ~

The ABSOLUTE best to you!!

Thanks for sharing your story!!

Oct. 03 2013 11:33 AM
Lidia S. from Jersey City, NJ

I'm listening to this caller who thinks that she shouldn't be forced to buy health insurance because she is healthy and saves money. I'm healthy and save money, but all my health and savings didn't prepare me for when I suffered a back injury during a crash in a bike race in Colorado six years ago. Surgery, physical therapy and follow up doctor's visits over a period of two years cost about $163,000. Thank goodness I did have insurance, but even with insurance my copays came to about $8,000. My care wiped out my savings.

The caller had stated that she was fit, healthy and runs all the time. What if she ever got injured running? She can suffer an ACL tear, a sprained ankle or a broken leg. In fact, god forbid, she can be hit by a car. How is she going to pay for that without insurance?

Oct. 03 2013 11:32 AM
Frances Wells from Piermont, N.Y.

As the mother of a healthy 32 year old with no health care at her work place, I'm actually willing to help her pay for health care on the exchange market -- because I know that if something does happen to her, I will do whatever it takes to get her the care. she might need. This could mean that I lose my own financial security.

Oct. 03 2013 11:32 AM
John A

Totally can back up Mandeep(sp) on everything he says. The NYTimes many years ago, and now, has been continually documenting how costs for the uninsured are 3x to 5x what they are for those less poor, those able to afford insurance.
Run for your health? Make sure you don't wear out a hip or a knee doing so. Just a heads up.

Oct. 03 2013 11:31 AM

The woman who claimed it would cost $1000 a month to go on her husband's insurance is imagining things. Most employers subsidize family member's health insurance as well as the employee. Even if not, what kind of group insurance has rates of $1000 a month? Does the plan guarantee hospitalization in the Jennifer Lopez suite with personal servants and catered food from your choice of four star restaurants? Does she have any idea of the total costs of a pregnancy in the US? How much care for a premature baby or pregnancy complications cost? Not that of course she was challenged to give the name of the insurance company or anything or challenged in any way, of course.

Oct. 03 2013 11:31 AM

Laura from Brooklyn, NY ~

Unfortunately, $100,000 is NOT EVEN CLOSE to what you need as a substitute for "insurance".

What we need is a single payer healthcare delivery system. NOT health IN$URANCE®!

Oct. 03 2013 11:30 AM
fuva from harlemworld

Nomi was that last caller's name from Jersey City? She's a damn fool.
Like folk are even making enough money to save...Like wages have not stagnated under the greatest redistribution of wealth to the rich in history, who use it to capture these pols...And then blaming sick folk for getting sick...
Don't you know that 'government' is you? You're being so bamboozled that you don't even know it.
And you're a black woman, too? SMH

Mandeep caller is on point. Yes, folks, we are individually distracted and spaced out on Facebook, etc. while we are being collectively played.

Oct. 03 2013 11:30 AM
Carmen from Brooklyn

To reply to the woman who said we should "save for a rainy day", I had cancer at age 24, immediately after I graduated from college. My treatment cost over half a million dollars, but I was lucky enough to be in Massachusetts at the time, where I was covered by Romneycare (ironically enough!) I was a vegetarian who had always been healthy prior to my diagnosis. I would have either died or been in crippling debt for the rest of my life had I lived somewhere else. I hope the woman who believes this will never happen to her will rethink her position.

Oct. 03 2013 11:29 AM
Janine from Manhattan

What about a single payer system? It'll never happen once insurance companies get a hold of us! THAT is something that would help. I can't wait for people to start paying for insurance and seeing what a rip off it is! Yes, beats paying out of pocket if you're sick, but not if you're not. THE ONLY answer to this would be for them to fix what's so expensive about healthcare first and then we might solve the healthcare issue and start a universal healthcare system. Obama made sure it'll never happen. And the subsidies for those who can't afford it? It's just extending welfare.

Oct. 03 2013 11:28 AM
Geo from nyc

The last caller gives me hope for the future. So glad to hear his comments.

Oct. 03 2013 11:28 AM

the lady from jersey city is either rich or an idiot. try saving money in your mattress for cancer. good luck with that

Oct. 03 2013 11:28 AM

I LOVE this caller "Mandeep" (SP?? Sorry!!)!!


Oct. 03 2013 11:27 AM
Jennifer from Westchester

Let's consider eliminating insurance completely. Why shouldn't we treat healthcare like public education. We pay a tax based on income, and everyone is entitled. Think of all the money our country would save if we eliminated health insurance entirely. Just like with schools-you still can pay for private service, but everyone should be entitled to healthcare within reasonable limits.

Oct. 03 2013 11:27 AM
Peter from Wash Hts from Washington Heights

Go Mandeep! I'll vote for you for Congress!

Oct. 03 2013 11:27 AM
Susie in Brooklyn

Mandeep was right on!!!

Oct. 03 2013 11:27 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

I still believe that we should go back to private medicine, and have charity hospitals for the indigent. Those who are bankrupted because they had no insurance or did not have the money to pay out of pocket, will then have to go to charity hospitals.

Oct. 03 2013 11:27 AM
Avid Newsreader from Kentucky.

My stepson at age 21 had an acute gall bladder attack. He thought he had an ulcer. He went to the emergency room when the pain became unbearable. They tested and tested, finally found out it was his gall bladder, he had it taken out and came home the next day. Total hospital bill: about $24,000 including hospital, surgery, anesthesia. And this was about 10 years ago. One can only imagine what the total on the tape would be now.
At the time he had his gall bladder out, he was not able to get health insurance. I negotiated the bills down as best as I could and paid the tab: $16,000.
Yes, young healthy people do need health insurance

Oct. 03 2013 11:26 AM
Chuck from Brooklyn


What country are you living in? Rainy day fund? People are living paycheck to paycheck.

Oct. 03 2013 11:26 AM
Lucy from New Jersey

To that woman who 'resents' paying in to support sick people, just because she lives a supposedly healthy lifestyle, doesn't' mean she can't get sick. I have always lived healthy by eating well, exercising, breastfeeding. You name it, I was the epitome of healthy. Then a 49 I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. No family history either. I was in shock. Don't kid yourself, lady and don't act like the only ones who get sick are the ones who deserve it. The Affordable Healthcare Act is the best thing to happen to this country in a long time.

Oct. 03 2013 11:25 AM


Oct. 03 2013 11:25 AM
Laura from Brooklyn, NY

Yep, definitely signing up. Any naive callers saying they don't need insurance because they're healthy, and have emergency funds, has never been in an unfortunate situation (or known anyone else in an unfortunate situation) where medical bills from an accident has bankrupted them. Just saving up 100,000 for a rainy day, sure... if you're making a ton of money and have a family with financial means.

Oct. 03 2013 11:25 AM

So when are we going to stop complaining online and on the radio, and take to the streets?

Oct. 03 2013 11:25 AM

Eddy, a lot of the people who are projected to not get health insurance are in states which are refusing to extend MedicAid to more people.

Oct. 03 2013 11:25 AM
Mimi from nyc

This lady is nuts if she thinks avoiding carbs and preventing catastrophic illness are related. Also, most countries that do save more the U.S. have some form of federally managed health care program. I wonder why?

Oct. 03 2013 11:24 AM
jmurphy from Long Island

wow, a rainy day fund? I want to make what she makes. The reality is that salaries have not kept up with increased prices and the rainy day fund of our parents is no longer feasible on a widespread basis. Case in point: 15 years ago when I bought by home, a week's worth of groceries cost $125.00. Now, those same groceries cost $350.00. Ditto for my utility bills. I would venture to say saving is a luxury many of us do not have.

I also firmly believe healthcare should not be a luxury based on income. That put's healthcare on the level of flat screen tvs, cars, and designer clothing. Healthcare is necessary for a fit workforce.

Oct. 03 2013 11:23 AM
StCheryl from Long Island

The woman currently on (Noemi? Nomi?) doesn't understand that we are ALREADY paying for people who don't have insurance. When people don't have health insurance, they delay taking care of chronic conditions and end up using the emergency room and hospital when the conditions have reached a crisis. Emergency care is significantly more expensive than regular preventive care.

One day, if she is like most people, she will very likely need a lot of health care. If she thinks about it at all, she will change her tune.

Oct. 03 2013 11:23 AM
Susan from NYC

That woman is insane when it comes to health care. Heaven forbid she get a chronic condition. Yea, if our military would stop turning to the gov't for every little thing.

Oct. 03 2013 11:23 AM
Nick from UWS

Brian, why are you chastising this woman for using the phrase "the government raping the people" when you agree with the phrase "the government raping the social security system.". That's completely irrational...the two statements are exactly the same thing. What's the matter with you?

Oct. 03 2013 11:23 AM

Brian Lehrer just agreed with the right wing uninformed woman that Social Security has been raped and is not there. She has no idea what she is talking about. Apparently he doesn't either. She went on with one selfish specious opinion after another without challenge, as usual.

Oct. 03 2013 11:22 AM
JR from NYC

this last caller is very selfish and does not completely understand the issue.

she's probably fortunate to not have been unemployed or she forgets one day she'll get older - and no matter how much she has saved in her mattress it might not be enough.

health care costs in this country are insanely high.

Oct. 03 2013 11:22 AM
Dee from BK

To the uber healthy, athletic woman who has no insurance who called in angry about contributing to people can get cancer. what will she do with those hospital bills then?

Oct. 03 2013 11:22 AM
jf from corporate slave state number 1

To the caller. Your grandparents weren't gouged for medical care 10,000 times the actual price for everything! the government is raping us and the medical industry is also raping us, and murdering 2.5 million through malpractice.IT'S ALSO CALLED RANSOM FOR YOUR LIFE.

Oct. 03 2013 11:22 AM
Robert from NYC

Ha ha ha ha ha, this woman has some information and doesn't know what she's talking about. I hope under her mattress is about 1,000,000 or more because should she ever get some truly serious disease or condition that's about how much it might cost her.

Oct. 03 2013 11:22 AM

This "self-sustainable" female caller is naive AND STUPID!

Brian... REALLY!?!?!? Not a WORD!

Oct. 03 2013 11:21 AM
mc from Brooklyn

The Federal Government borrows from Social Security (issues it TBills) because the SS Fund is not allowed to invest in private equity. TBills are its investments. Hello??

Oct. 03 2013 11:21 AM
The Truth from Becky

That young and invincible young woman caller of 26 has no idea how quickly the tide can turn and you are the one with the health issue. When you turn your head away from the less forunate and say they should be on their own...tsk, tsk.. SMH

Oct. 03 2013 11:21 AM
Mary from UWS

I thought I was a young invincible many years ago. I didn't have insurance from the time I was 21 until I was 25. I was a generally healthy 25 year old but luckily I did just get a fulltime job with insurance when my appendix ruptured and complications developed during recovery and I was in the hospital for weeks. That was 1992 and the bills added up to over $37,000. I was only responsible for approximately $500. If I didn't have insurance I would probably still be paying that off. My advice to all of those young invincibles - get the insurance. You never know when something is going to happen.

Oct. 03 2013 11:21 AM
Dee from Montclair

Tell that lady, I was healthy, ran everyday, saved, paid taxes, paid insurance, which I never used. I got laid off and chose not to pay $1200 for COBRA. I then fell down. That fall cost $100,000.00! Hope she doesn't get cancer.

Oct. 03 2013 11:20 AM

This ranting lady has never seen a modern medical bill without insurance. An ambulance is $400 by itself!

Oct. 03 2013 11:20 AM

That last woman is insane.

Oct. 03 2013 11:19 AM
Adam Paiva from Brooklyn

I intend to browse and shop for options. I am 29 and insured currently but because I am at a new small startup company am paying fully via my former former employer's insurance plan on COBRA and the monthly costs are significant but as a healthy, busy 29 year old, I rarely need to take advantage of my health insurance.

Oct. 03 2013 11:19 AM
mc from Brooklyn

Why should you help finance it? Because that is how insurance (or a single payer) works. Someday you will need it.

Oct. 03 2013 11:18 AM

This lady sounds like a lunatic.

Oct. 03 2013 11:18 AM
Truth & Beauty from Brooklyn

My husband and I are old and healthy (B"H), but we still want health insurance because one never knows when that can change.

I was assaulted a few years ago and it was my health insurance that paid for my hospital stay, surgery, doctor visits and rehab, none of which I could have afforded at the time because due to the incident, I was unable to work for over four months.

The whole point of insurance is something I learned from MAD magazine many centuries ago: Insurance is legalized gambling; when you win, you lose and when you lose, you win. Penalty or no, you never know when your turn will come for some sort of health-related disaster. Ultimately, the insurance premiums are far less of problem than either not getting health care or going bankrupt paying for health care one can't afford.

Also, believe it or not, if you don't have health care, even the small penalty you would pay for not having wouldn't begin to cover the cost of the health care you might receive in an emergency situation. That would be covered by our tax dollars, which would be paid for by ALL OF US. So, you either pay for the health insurance or you get a tax increase.

Oct. 03 2013 11:18 AM
mc from Brooklyn

Duhhh...maybe you should check for the subsidies. You make under $45,900 you get a subsidy. People, please!

Oct. 03 2013 11:17 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

Paying the fine is not "cheating"

You will just not have insurance and God Forbid, you get hit by a bus or get a "diagnosis" for something bad, you will die - stuck in a public hospital or go broke.

Many young people do not want to die or be in perpetual worry.

Oct. 03 2013 11:16 AM
Chris from Queens

I am 27 and have been uninsured for 5 years. It's horrifically nerve wracking, and I have lost a great deal of money on emergency care in those years. I would like to be insured; I would like to have a primary care physician; I am unsure as of yet whether I will be able to afford it. I will likely seek coverage for catastrophes and seek more general coverage in a few years.

Oct. 03 2013 11:14 AM
Eddy from Chicago, IL

Why did the market-based healthcare system need a bailout? And why is it being sold as some kind of universal system when 31 million people (CBO estimate of people who will between requirements of fed and state law) and undocumented people are left out? It's not compassionate and it's not affordable.

People should be covered but the worst way morally and financially is by expanding the rolls of for-profit insurers on the backs of debt-ridden, struggling young people. Obama's band-aid law shouldn't be mistaken for a solution, but rather a resistance to sensible reform (either single-payer or socialized medicine).

Oct. 03 2013 11:13 AM
Oscar from NY

Jesus, buddha and many others know that sickness is a demon that possesses your body; many come because the person call it up themselves.
You can also heal yourself if you believe metaphysically or call conjurations, hospitals, either way I have no idea about the new law but if I have to pay say up to 130$ a month for me to go the hospital anytime and even if they bill me I won't feel bad about it that's great, think of all I can do, wish plastic surgery was included..

Oct. 03 2013 10:29 AM

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