A <em>real</em> Obamacare fix: Let thirtysomethings sign up for Medicare

Copies of the application and instructions for the government health insurance marketplace from the Department of Health and Human Services.
(Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg)

The Affordable Care Act may have just gotten a little more affordable. Or did it?

The Obama administration announced Thursday night that individuals whose health insurance plans are being canceled under the new provisions of Obamacare will be eligible for a “hardship exemption,” which will allow them to forgo coverage without penalty or to sign up for a cheaper “catastrophic plan” that had previously been available only to people under 30.

”This is a common-sense clarification of the law,” Joanne Peters, a spokeswoman for Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, told Reuters. “For the limited number of consumers whose plans have been canceled and are seeking coverage, this is one more option.”

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I’m one of those people with a canceled plan. I certainly don’t want to forgo coverage; that’s why I bought it in the first place. So immediately after hearing the news, I went on Covered California’s website and tried to get information on a catastrophic plan. After inputting my age and income, I was informed that I was ineligible for such coverage, and I was not even able to preview what benefits the plan offers.

I called the Covered California helpline for guidance and was told by an automated message that they were experiencing “high call volumes.” After hearing the same message in Spanish, I was hung up on.

Obviously this new iteration of Obamacare was just unveiled and the kinks still need to be worked out. But my current plan is being canceled at the end of the month. If I don’t sign up for a new one by Monday, I’ll either be automatically funneled into a costly Obamacare plan that I don’t especially want, or have no coverage come the new year.

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In other words, this change is a little late, isn’t it?

But I have an idea: As long as we’re unveiling plans willy-nilly, how about letting thirtysomethings like me buy into Medicare? Information on the coverage is readily available, and I like what I see. Virtually every health provider in the country takes Medicare, so I won’t have to find a new doctor. Co-pays are reasonable. Count me in.

I’m exactly the type of young, healthy person the health exchanges want. So surely adding me to the Medicare pool could only help the system.

The move would undoubtedly cause a few million conservatives to spontaneously combust. But if the Obama administration is going to cover its screw-ups with desperate last-second patches to the system, it might as well go full bore with them: Use the chaos around Obamacare as a backdoor entry to the ill-fated “public option.” Because these functionally useless half-measures aren’t cutting it.


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Matthew Fleischer is a Los Angeles-based freelance journalist. Follow him on Twitter @MatteFleischer.

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