ACA: Half of uninsured don't intend to buy health coverage, poll says

March 26, 2014

With the March 31 deadline to enroll for insurance through the Affordable Care Act’s healthcare exchanges approaching, the Obama administration still faces an uphill battle both to persuade the uninsured to obtain coverage and educate the country about what’s in the law.

With less than a week remaining before the deadline to enroll for insurance through the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) healthcare exchanges, the Obama administration still faces an uphill battle both to persuade the uninsured to obtain coverage and educate the country about what’s in the law.

A poll released today by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 50% of uninsured adults between the ages of 18 and 64 say they do not intend to sign up for coverage, while 40% say the plan to do so, and 10% either don’t know or didn’t respond to the poll. About two-thirds of the uninsured say they have not yet tried to get coverage, with the rest saying they have tried to get it through a state or the federal exchange, Medicaid, their employer, or a private insurance company.

The latest enrollment figures from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services show that 4.2 million people had signed up for insurance through the exchanges as of March 1.

In addition, the Obama administration announced Tuesday that it was instituting a “special enrollment period,” allowing people who had begun but not yet completed the enrollment process through an exchange by March 31 to obtain an extension of the deadline.

The Kaiser poll found that many of the uninsured aren’t aware of important aspects of the ACA. One-third of those without insurance said they didn’t know that the law requires nearly all Americans to have health coverage or face a fine, while nearly 60% were unaware of the March 31 enrollment deadline.

In addition, slightly fewer than half of those polled knew that the ACA gives states the option of expanding Medicaid enrollment, and more than 40% don’t know that the law provides subsidies to help low- and moderate-income individuals purchase healthcare insurance.

The poll also contained some good news for the Obama administration and ACA supporters. It found that opinion of the bill among the uninsured is improving, with 45% of the uninsured reporting an unfavorable opinion of the ACA compared with 56% in February. Conversely, 37% reported a positive opinion in the latest poll, compared with 22% in February.

In addition, many of the individual provisions of the ACA remain popular, at least among those who know about them. For example, 80% like the fact that the bill allows adults remain on their parents’ insurance plan up to age 26, 79% like that it closes the Medicare “doughnut hole” in prescription drug coverage, and 77% approve of the subsidies for insurance purchase.

The bad news is that large numbers of Americans don’t know about these and other provisions of the law. More than 70% are unaware of the raised age for dependent coverage, 40% don’t know it closes the Medicare doughnut hole, and 63% don’t know about the premium subsidies available to low- and moderate-income individuals.