This article traces the emergence of the term “young invincible” in health policy literature, the health insurance industry, and popular media. Young invincible is the label given to adults under thirty-five who opt not to purchase health insurance because they perceive that they will not need it and would rather spend their money elsewhere. As uninsurance rates climbed, policy makers tried to figure out who the uninsured were and why they lacked coverage. Young adults rightly assumed importance in these conversations because they were disproportionately represented among the uninsured and their numbers were growing. However, the term “young invincible” had the contradictory effect of centering a white, male, high-income chooser as the subject of health policy discourses rather than the far more diverse mix of people who make up the uninsured. This character was imputed preferences and tastes based in economic theory and in long-standing cultural ideals: he was a risk taker, overly optimistic, and preferred cash now to security later. We argue that this heightened concern over young invincibles distorts understanding of the demographics of people who do not have health insurance. It also stokes intergenerational conflict, and frames structural constraints and high prices as a simple consumer “choice.”

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