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One-Fourth of Uninsured Adults Don't Know About Obamacare's Exchanges One-Fourth of Uninsured Adults Don't Know About Obamacare's Exchanges

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Health Care

One-Fourth of Uninsured Adults Don't Know About Obamacare's Exchanges

With the administration working desperately to get people enrolled, the information gap presents a high hurdle.

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(Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images))

Nearly one quarter of uninsured adults don't know about Obamacare's health insurance exchanges, according to a recent study.

Some 23 percent of uninsured adults reported having not heard of the health law's marketplaces, say researchers at the Urban Institute, an economic and social-policy think tank. And among adults in low-income families, 27 percent said they had not heard of the exchanges.

 

Open enrollment for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act's exchanges ends March 31—a date the White House, insurance companies, and pro-Obamacare groups such as Enroll America are eyeing in their effort to get as many Americans signed up for coverage as possible.

The success of the exchanges depends on a broad pool of enrollees, including some younger, healthy people who are less expensive to insure.

The administration has allocated some $52 million for an advertising blitz between January and March, officials at the Health and Human Services Department said. That's twice the amount spent in the first three months of the sign-up period. And they're using digital marketing and social-media techniques to reach and engage the target audience, officials added.

 

But with a significant amount of Americans unaware of the coverage the health law was designed to benefit, the administration faces an uphill battle in the final weeks of enrollment.

Already the Congressional Budget Office has lowered its estimate of the number of individuals who would sign up for coverage in 2014 by 1 million due to the troubles with HealthCare.gov in its first months after going live.

As of late February, some 4 million people had selected plans in the health law's exchanges. To meet the most recent CBO projections, 2 million more would need to get covered in the final month.

But, the survey found, low-income and uninsured adults were more likely than their respective peer groups to have not heard at all about the exchanges.

 

The survey's results offer some hope, as researchers also found that a majority of consumers who are aware of the new health insurance exchanges are looking or plan to look at their options. Among uninsured adults, the survey says, roughly 19 percent have looked at plans and 33 percent intend to look. Of those who had looked, roughly 6 in 10 were actively seeking to purchase coverage or determine whether they were eligible for subsidies. And, the researchers said, low-income and uninsured adults most likely to benefit from the health law's coverage options and tax subsidies were more likely than their respective peer groups to have looked or intend to look for coverage on the exchanges.

The results were released Thursday in a brief as part of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's December 2013 Health Reform Monitoring Survey. Researchers surveyed nearly 8,000 adults ages 18-64 asking how much, if anything, they had heard about the health law's marketplaces. Those who had heard about the marketplaces were asked if they had looked at health-plan information on the exchange websites, and about their experiences in shopping for coverage.

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