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.

A woman looks at the HealthCare.gov insurance exchange internet site October 1, 2013 in Washington, DC. US President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare as it is commonly called, passed in March 2010, went into effect Tuesday at 8am EST. Heavy Internet traffic and system problems plagued the launch of the new health insurance exchanges Tuesday morning. Consumers attempting to log on were met with an error message early Tuesday due to an overload of Internet traffic. 
National Journal
Clara Ritger
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Clara Ritger
March 6, 2014, 7:18 a.m.

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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