ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
And I'm Audie Cornish.
For all the difficulties the Affordable Care Act has faced so far, many people are still optimistic it will be successful. But to clinch that success, a very important demographic has to participate: young, healthy people. After all, it's the young, healthy people who will help offset the cost of the older, sicker ones. And in order to appeal to the younger set, the health care exchanges are offering inexpensive health insurance.
But what if those youngsters haven't heard of the health care law? Or what if they don't want to buy even a cheap policy? NPR's Sonari Glinton sought out some young and uninsured people to find out.
SONARI GLINTON, BYLINE: I was trying to figure out where could I find groupings of young, healthy people. And I thought, ha, I live in Hollywood, might as well come to a casting agency. I'm here at the Cazt - that's with a Z - agency in West Hollywood, and there's an open call for a comedy show, and hopefully I'll find some young and maybe funny actors without insurance.
MATT RIFE: Oh, my name is Matt.
RIFE: Rife, R-I-F-E.
GLINTON: And you're an actor.
RIFE: A comic.
GLINTON: Rife is 18. He's working at comedy clubs. He doesn't have health insurance, in part because things aren't going so great back at home with his parents. But he says he needs it.
RIFE: Like, if I get hurt, I'm kind of screwed, you know? Like, if I get sick, I'm on my own. Like, I'm down to just, like, some ibuprofen and some cough drops. And that's about it.
GLINTON: Rife says he and his friends don't talk much about health care because it seems like a distant political thing that doesn't have much to do with them.
RIFE: We're worried about it but not like, oh, we got to get this today or, like, we're going to be in trouble, you know, just as a precautionary thing.
GLINTON: It'd be good to have...
RIFE: Yeah. If something did happen, it would be nice, you know?
GLINTON: You want your car first.
RIFE: Yeah. I would like a car first.
GLINTON: Meanwhile, going up for the same part is Blake Sheldon. He's 21 years old. He works at a sandwich shop when he's not looking for acting gigs. He doesn't have insurance, and he doesn't know very much about the Affordable Care Act.
BLAKE SHELDON: What I do know is that it doesn't seem too easy right now, at least from my understanding. And so with all the other, you know, stuff going in my life, moving out here just - I don't know, I guess I just haven't done that much research into it.
GLINTON: A lot of the young people that I talked to didn't seem aware in any detail of the Affordable Care Act and how it related to them. There have been some marketing attempts to reach out to them.
(SOUNDBITE OF PHONE RINGING)
CARRIE PRINCE: This is Carrie.
GLINTON: I called Carrie Prince at work. She's 28. She's a freelance production assistant in Hollywood. She works full time, more than 40 hours a week for a major studio, but she doesn't get health insurance. Though she's heard a lot about health care, she says she's going to get it but she's still torn about it.
PRINCE: It will make me broke all the time. All the time. Like, it's basically taking every last dollar that I would have to spend on extra food or a parking ticket or anything.
GLINTON: Prince says she's gone on the website and calculated what she'd have to pay: just over $100 a month, and that's with a subsidy.
PRINCE: I am super healthy. I rarely go to the doctor. So to pay over 100 bucks a month for something that I rarely use seems crazy to me.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
AUBREY CASTLE-SAUNDERS: All right. Lift your chest. Place your hands on your waists. Pull your abs in. Press your shoulders down. Start to lift your knees. Up. Up. Up.
GLINTON: This is a small health club called The Bar Method on Pacific Coast Highway in Long Beach, California. The workout is a cross between Pilates, yoga and 1980s aerobics, if you can imagine that.
CASTLE-SAUNDERS: OK. Your body warms up for the rest of the class. Bring your arms higher.
GLINTON: The person we've come to see here is the instructor, Aubrey Castle-Sanders. She's 29, and she doesn't have health insurance now.
CASTLE-SAUNDERS: Up until last year, I think, had you been like, oh, you're going to have to pay a penalty, like, if you don't purchase it. There would have been no doubt in my mind, I would've been, like, I'm not purchasing it. I'm healthy. I take good care of myself. But I got kidney stones last year, and it was completely out of the blue, and the bill was astronomical.
GLINTON: Not only were her bills astronomical, but she says the pain from the kidney stones was unbearable. And that was a wake-up call. She's gone on HealthCare.gov to look at the plans. But even now, she's not 100 percent sure that she's going to sign up.
CASTLE-SAUNDERS: I really do want to sign up and I'm like - I most likely - it's like I most likely will. But it's just kind of like, oh, God. OK. I have to, like, put up this like - I have to, like, put that money out there for that. So I am kind of dragging my feet.
GLINTON: The administration can't afford to have that feet dragging. It needs millions more like Castle-Saunders to sign up. Sonari Glinton, NPR News, Culver City.
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