Mar. 27—Half of those who lacked coverage as of mid-March said they planned to remain uninsured, a recent poll found.

The March Kaiser Health Tracking Poll found 50 percent of the nonelderly adult uninsured plan to remain uninsured, 40 percent plan to obtain coverage, and 10 percent did not know or refused to respond.

Only one-third of the uninsured have tried to get coverage during the past six months, which coincides with the first six-month enrollment period of the new government-run individual health insurance marketplaces created by the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

The findings came as the end of open enrollment nears on March 31. However, the Obama administration announced this week that those who seek coverage through after March 31 and self attest that they previously tried and failed to get coverage could still qualify for marketplace coverage. No proof of previous application attempts is needed. On Wednesday, a Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services official declined to say whether penalties would apply for applicants who attest that they previously tried and failed to get coverage, but are not truthful about their efforts. 

Among the subgroup in the Kaiser poll who did try to obtain insurance in the last six months, 18 percent sought coverage through the marketplaces, 14 percent sought coverage through Medicaid (for which the ACA greatly expanded eligibility), 13 percent sought coverage directly from an insurer, 9 percent sought insurance from an insurer, and 2 percent sought it from other sources.

Most uninsured respondents knew that a lack of qualifying coverage this year would result in a tax penalty and that the ACA provides financial help to low income people to afford coverage, according to the poll.

Related Findings

The poll seemed to echo a February McKinsey & Company survey that found only 27 percent of people who had bought ACA marketplace coverage by early February had been previously uninsured.

The lackluster uptake of ACA coverage by the people primarily targeted to benefit from its multibillion-dollar coverage expansion has been a point of concern of the Obama administration officials and insurers. At least one insurance expert has concluded that the low number of uninsured people seeking ACA coverage is due to the high cost of the plans.

“I believe they are not buying it because the premium––even net of the subsidies––is too much for plans that have deductibles that are too high,” Robert Laszewski, an insurance industry consultant, wrote in a blog post. He cited calculations from Avalere Health, a consulting firm, which found the average Silver Plan deductible is $2,567 and the average Bronze Plan deductible is $4,545.

“People are often being asked to pay hundreds of dollars per month in premium, net of subsidies, and they don't see the value,” he wrote.

Rich Daly is a senior writer/editor in HFMA’s Washington, D.C., office. Follow Rich on Twitter @rdalyhealthcare.


Publication Date: Thursday, March 27, 2014