Why Young Americans Should Buy Obamacare

Wednesday, 23 Oct 2013 07:51 AM

By Patrick Watson

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Last week, I told Moneynews readers how Obamacare could save the U.S. economy. The story went semi-viral on a few social media sites. A common theme: Young American adults will not buy Obamacare health insurance because, for them, it is a bad deal. They pay more so older citizens can pay less.

The point is correct. In my view, it is also irrelevant. Today, I'll explain why by telling you a story. It will sound wildly implausible at first, but keep reading. You will understand by the end.

Suppose you are a healthy American in your 20s. Like many in your generation, you are unemployed. You live with your parents and scrape by with odd jobs.

Editor's Note: 22 Hidden Taxes and Fees Set to Hit You With Obamacare. Read the Guide to Protect Yourself.

One day you get a mysterious text message. A California billionaire has randomly selected 100 young adults to spend a free, one-month, all-inclusive vacation on his private tropical island. The island has everything you need for an epic binge: beaches, luxurious cabanas, gourmet food, beer, tequila and more. The island has no rules, no police and no security cameras. The billionaire wants you to have fun on his island. If it feels good, do it.

The one part the billionaire didn't pay for is the boat. Only one captain knows how to find the island, and he demands $100 from each of your group. Do you pay it?

Of course, you pay! This is the party of the century and you are on the A-list. You beg, borrow or steal a hundred bucks and get on the boat.

Before departing, the captain tells your group one more thing. The island is home to a rare spider called the Baracknid, whose toxic flesh-eating venom kills within hours. The venom keeps victims fully awake to the end so they can feel every second of searing pain. You begin to rethink this idea.

"Don't worry," the captain says. Baracknids are lazy and spend most of their lives asleep. Only one lives on this island. One time each month, he wakes up, bites the first human he sees, and then goes back to bed.

Since your party of 100 will be on the island for a month, we know two things. First, we know 99 of you will have a month-long party. Second, we know one of you will die. We don't know who it will be.
The odds are in your favor. You will probably be in the 99 — but you may be the One.

Your team huddles to discuss. Some want to back out. A geek who knows math reminds everyone that the Baracknid risk will be lower if more people go to the party. If 1,000 people go to island, the odds of surviving the party jump from 1 in 100 all the way up to 1 in 1,000.

The captain nixes that idea. The party boat only holds a hundred and it's leaving right now. "Why don't you just bring the antidote?" he says. Baracknomania has a cure. It is 100 percent effective, but a single dose costs $500 bucks.

This changes everything. The math geek calculates that if all 100 of you pitch in just $5 each, everyone can party and no one will die. Just make sure whoever holds the antidote is sober.

The ship sets sail. You reach the island and all your dreams come true. It is the best month of your life.

On day 19, the spider wakes up, sees the math geek pounding coconuts and immediately bites his nose.

The geek screams for help as skin sloughs off his face. A blonde girl from West Virginia races from the lagoon with the antidote. The geek survives and everyone has a drink. Baracknid passes out until next month.

The 100 of you on that island faced a public health risk. You knew Baracknid would bite somebody. You also knew the victim would die without help. No one person could afford the cure, but one dose was all it took. You controlled the risk by working together.

Editor's Note: 22 Hidden Taxes and Fees Set to Hit You With Obamacare. Read the Guide to Protect Yourself.

This is, more or less, how health insurance works: by pooling risk. Spending $5 for a share of the antidote was an excellent investment. It bought you a chance to enjoy the party without fear of agonizing death.

In real life, even in a group of 100,000 people just like you, a few will get cancer, be shot in a drive-by or encounter some other Baracknid in the next year. The risk is real. Stuff happens.

What you should do in this scenario is pitch in your money and do your part. Health insurance is the way you do this for a whole state or country. It isn't just for sick people. The math only works if healthy people are in the equation.

If you don't chip in and the spider bites you, those who paid their fair share could rightly tell you, "Tough luck, freeloader." We don't do that in America because we are decent human beings who don't want people to suffer. We'll take care of you . . . but you are still a freeloader.

Obamacare is your chance to buy your own ticket. Yes, it is a costly, complicated, inefficient machine. There are definitely better ways to solve the problem and we ought to talk about them.

Nevertheless, Obamacare is what the democratic process gave us. Spiders are biting people right now. As a society, our choice today is to either a) let them die or b) do what we can to help them.

When you buy health insurance, you help others and you help yourself. All of us are at risk. Baracknids lurk everywhere.

So pitch in your $5 and enjoy this party we call America. The math geek will thank you.

© 2014 Moneynews. All rights reserved.

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