Bloomberg Columnist: Obama Should Offer Pot to Get Young Obamacare Sign-ups

December 16th, 2013 4:18 PM

Now I really have seen everything.

On Monday, Bloomberg View columnist Caroline Baum actually said that to get young people to sign up for ObamaCare, in states where it's legal, the Administration should give them marijuana:

Instead of outreach programs and sappy TV ads with parents imploring their kids to sign up for Obamacare, President Barack Obama needs to start thinking creatively if he wants his signature legislative achievement to be a success. What motivates kids? In fact, what motivates any of us?

Incentives. This White House has failed to grasp what makes individuals and businesses tick. Whether it's taxes or regulations, Obama doesn't understand the basis of a capitalist economy. Whoever was responsible for setting the Accountable Care Act penalty -- a tax, according to the Supreme Court -- wasn't thinking because it's much too low: $95 a person, or 1 percent of taxable income, whichever is greater, beginning next year. The penalty rises sharply after that. But if the point is to create an onrush of enrollees at the start, the penalty rate is cheaper for many young, healthy individuals than the premium cost of a health-care policy.

Baum then explained the enrollment rate for folks aged 18 to 34 has been very disappointing with the nine state exchanges the New York Times looked at averaging about 20 percent.

"Obamacare can't work with those kinds of results," she correctly observed.

So what should Obama do before it's too late?.

First, announce and advertise that everyone between the ages of 18 and 34 who enrolls on the health-care exchanges by the end of the year is automatically entered in a lottery. Winners will receive everything from a free iPhone or iPad to a full-year of health-care underwritten by Uncle Sam. Refer a friend and get a discount. Buy one (year), get one free. In states that have legalized marijuana for recreational use -- Colorado and Washington -- by all means, throw in a bag of cannabis.

Imagine that. Give people pot to entice them to sign up for ObamaCare.

Why stop there? Why not give them alcohol, too? Or cigarettes? Or any number of things that are bad for their health in order for them to purchase health insurance that they wouldn't need if they continued leading a healthy lifestyle?

Maybe Baum wasn't aware that saloons used to act as polling places many years ago, and that states eventually made it illegal for such establishments to sell alcohol on Election Day.

But this wasn't Baum's only goofy suggestion:

Financial institutions could do for health-care what they did for real estate: lure potential borrowers with teaser rates that reset higher over the next few years. (Yes, the terms would be in the small print, but who reads that stuff?) Create collateralized debt obligations from health-care loans, slap a AAA-rating on them and drive the next bubble.

This led me to think that this whole piece was tongue-in-cheek and that Baum must be a satirist. Looking at her bio, that doesn't appear to be the case:

[S]he has been a Bloomberg columnist since 1998...Before coming to Bloomberg News, she was a columnist for Dow Jones, and has been writing about the economy and the bond market since 1987.

Doesn't look like a satirist, does she?

I guess she's actually serious.