A report issued this week by the U.N. Population Fund estimates that 1.8 billion people worldwide are between the ages of 10 to 24 years old. This is the largest number of global youths in world history. In a New York Times story about the data, writer Somini Sengupta summarizes most important conclusion: “Whether [the young people] lift their nations to prosperity — or tear them to shreds — will depend…on how swiftly governments can respond to their demands for decent education, health care and jobs.”
While a majority of the surging youth population is concentrated in the impoverished countries of Southeast Asia and other hubs (with 350 million in India alone), the United States boasts a full fifth of its residents in this age group. Reiterating that these numbers are more than just informational, Sengupta urges, “Countries that do not tend to their young people now are likely to see higher fertility rates and poorly skilled work forces. The report calls on countries to pay particular attention to the needs of girls and young women, including the need for sexual and reproductive health services.”
Thus, the timing seems like it couldn’t be better for this clever ad from Get Covered Illinois, the Land of Lincoln’s health insurance marketplace. In an effort to boost lagging Obamacare enrollment for the young and healthy, which also provides the vital risk pool balance necessary to contain costs, the commercial takes aim at the invincibility trope of youth. It targets the under 30-somethings using a healthy dose of realistic fear, mitigated with humor.
At the same time, the tag line of Get Covered’s ad, “You’ll be OK, probably,” could and should have been highlighted by Democrats in the run-up to this month’s mid-term Gubernatorial and Congressional elections, as the actual Republican alternative to Obamacare. The commercial features young Illinois adults frolicking in spring meadows (clearly the footage was shot WELL before open enrollment as the daytime high is 16 degrees in Chicago at present). These happy people are sporting neck braces, eye patches and casts formed of bubble wrap, cardboard and duct tape as they promote and celebrate a “Luck” health care plan made just for them!
Cute antics aside, I wish the commercial would go farther in acknowledging the malevolent forces at work in the other ear of America’s youth. Take this headline from conservative writer John Fund at the National Review: Young People Should Say No to Obamacare. One of Fund’s more dubious arguments is that, “whether they are slackers, students, or software engineers, young people are smart enough to figure out that they can easily wait to sign up for coverage until after they get sick.”
Really? Coming down with the common cold is one thing, but according to costhelperhealth.com, “Without health insurance, non-surgical treatment for a broken leg typically costs up to $2,500 or more for a fracture that requires a cast.” I don’t know many 20-somethings that have $2,500 on them at a given time. I don’t know many 40 or 50-somethings that do either. The cynical advice to America’s youth from GOP leadership amounts to this: We’d rather have you in bankruptcy court than participating in a successful program that provides access to quality care for millions more people. Because Obama hates job creators. Or something.
To go a step further, I also wish Get Covered would send a more forceful message to the young women of Illinois. While the U.N. Population Fund report acknowledges that “sexual and reproductive health services” are critical to the socioeconomic stability of a nation, the GOP willfully sticks its collective fingers in its ears. Illini ladies: no matter which Republican tries to tell you that repealing Obamacare will result in easier access to birth control, it’s just not true.
In an era of cynical and disingenuous political branding and advertising, I appreciate the Get Covered efforts to break a dangerous Republican stranglehold on the young public. Refusing to buy health insurance via the Affordable Care Act exchanges isn’t cool and rebellious. It doesn’t make you edgy. It just puts everyone at needless risk, and makes our country less affluent, productive and healthy.