GOP Governors: Young People Aren't Signing Up for Obamacare

Monday, 24 Feb 2014 04:08 PM

By John Gizzi

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With the March 31 deadline to apply for health insurance fast approaching, governors are offering mixed reviews on the progress of signing up residents in their states under the Affordable Care Act.

Democratic governors attending the winter meeting of the National Governors Association generally offered positive reviews of Obamacare's progress, while Republicans at the meeting in Washington over the weekend gave dim views of how many people are applying for healthcare in their states.

North Dakota Republican Gov. Jack Dalrymple told Newsmax:

"Young people are not signing up and not using the exchange. There have been some complaints about the continual postponement of implementing parts of the Affordable Care Act by the administration. The permission to delay implementation that has been given small and medium employers has been a particular point of tension.

"But one part of the act that won't be delayed is the individual mandate. And for young people, health insurance can be quite costly. So, many just say, 'why not simply pay the [fine for not having coverage]'" Dalrymple said.

Nevada Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval told Newsmax that his state is not part of the federal exchange and instead has its own independently designed online healthcare exchange.

"As of this month, approximately 50,000 people signed up for Medicaid and about 24,000 selected plans under the Affordable Care Act," Sandoval said. "And about 18,000 have paid premiums to ensure coverage."

As a result, Sandoval said, the Obamacare exchange in Nevada "has lowered its goal of 120,000 newly insured by March 31 to 50,000. This is something Jon Hager, its chief executive officer, explained to the Silver State Health Exchange. And then Mr. Hager resigned."

Along with Hager, operational heads of exchanges in Hawaii, Maryland, Minnesota, and Oregon also have resigned.

Democratic governors told a different story.

Asked by Newsmax whether Obamacare was getting a satisfactory number of applicants, Illinois Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn shot back: "Big-time!"

Quinn said about 250,000 have so far signed up under the Medicaid exchange "and about 81,000 have signed up for the Affordable Care Act."

Newsmax asked Quinn how many of the applicants for health insurance are between the ages of 18 and 35, the group that ACA advocates say it must attract in large numbers in order for the legislation to succeed.

Quinn replied that "we're doing well among the young invincibles," but offered no hard figures.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, told Newsmax he was satisfied with the number of applicants for healthcare in his state, saying, "We have had 128,000 sign up through the Medicaid exchange and 80,000 who are uninsured sign up [under the ACA]. That's 210,000, and that's pretty good so far."

Asked by Newsmax how many of the 80,000 were in the all-important 18-to-35 age bracket, the governor conceded: "We are lagging a bit behind among young invincibles."

But, he said, "the young invincibles are not the only target. The important part is that we get more of the uninsured, and that's a huge part of the population."

Other Republican governors at the conference, such as Mike Pence of Indiana, Sam Brownback of Kansas, and Scott Walker of Wisconsin, preferred to talk about their respective state healthcare programs.

"As you know from covering me when I was in Congress, I was strongly opposed to the Affordable Care Act," Pence told Newsmax. "It's now becoming increasingly evident to people that the act — Obamacare — was a bad idea that has been poorly implemented. It's time to start over, and build a national system on the model of our Healthy Indiana program, which uses resources to expand [health savings accounts] and allows people to make their own decisions as consumers."

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.

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