Uninsured Americans Are Confused About Obamacare, But They Do Plan To Buy Health Coverage


A rush of new polling released on Monday reinforces a trend that has been becoming clearer for months: Americans remain utterly confused about the health law’s most important provisions, even as the open enrollment period for its insurance marketplaces begins on Tuesday. Still, the vast majority of uninsured Americans do say they plan to buy health insurance under the law, even though less than half understand that they will do so through an Obamacare marketplace.

The Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) highlights just how little the uninsured know about Obamacare in its September tracking poll, which finds that 74 percent of uninsured non-elderly adults don’t know when the open enrollment period for Obamacare’s marketplaces begins:

The only provision of the health law that a significant share of the public knows about is the requirement that all individuals must buy health insurance or risk paying a fine. According to KFF, over 75 percent of the uninsured know about that penalty — but only 64 percent know about the insurance marketplaces, and a meager 54 percent of uninsured Americans know that they’ll be getting government subsidies to help them buy coverage. In fact, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) predicts that the vast majority of Americans gaining coverage through the health law’s marketplaces will receive some form of subsidy to help them afford it.

Another poll from the Commonwealth Fund estimates that even fewer uninsured Americans know about the insurance marketplaces, with just one in three of the uninsured saying they’re aware of the marketplaces or government subsidies. Approximately just as few uninsured people are aware of Obamacare’s popular consumer protections, such as its ban on plan providers denying coverage to Americans who have a pre-existing medical condition.

However, the Commonwealth survey also concludes that 60 percent of adults who are uninsured or currently have individual health policies will seek insurance through the state insurance marketplaces. Younger Americans are the least likely to do so, while poorer and middle-aged people are the most likely to:

commonwealth sept poll

CREDIT: The Commonwealth Fund

Gallup published similar results in its newest survey, finding that 65 percent of Americans will likely to get health insurance under the law rather than pay the tax penalty for forgoing coverage. But less than half of Americans — 48 percent — intend to buy insurance through the marketplaces. Researchers at Gallup contend this may be due to the low level of familiarity that Americans currently have with the statewide insurance markets.

With such rampant confusion — as well as widespread skepticism that Americans have about any information about Obamacare provided by major news outlets — it’s critical for community-based and national outreach organizations to continue their drives sign Americans up for health coverage in the coming months. The so-called “navigators” who will help the uninsured enroll are also likely to be an important resource for dispelling misconceptions and filling in information gaps about Obamacare.