Uninsured least prepared for coverage mandate

January 1, 2014

Few feel prepared for March deadline

As the deadline for open enrollment approaches, Americans are now more informed about the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and feel more prepared for its implementation. But that has not spurred action, according to a national opinion survey of more than 1,000 Americans (ages 18-64) conducted in November by Harris Interactive and released by Transamerica Center for Health Studies (TCHS).

Only 7% of the uninsured population feels “very prepared” to make health insurance choices after the ACA’s individual mandate takes effect in January 2014, and only 35% feels at least somewhat prepared, up slightly from 30% feeling at least somewhat prepared in the firm’s July survey. Likewise, 31% haven’t even heard of the health insurance exchanges compared to 15% of the general population.

“[The survey] highlights what people know about their healthcare options and what actions they are taking to become ACA compliant; plans have a vested interest in understanding health consumer behavior,” says Hector De La Torre, executive director of TCHS. “More Americans are informed and prepared for the March 31, 2014 mandatory health coverage date, but a significant number have yet to actually sign up for health insurance in the exchanges or in the traditional insurance market.”

The uninsured continue to be the least active, which could be because they feel the least prepared. He says the great unknown is what the uninsured ultimately will do.

“This group of uninsured will probably wait until the real deadline of March to make a decision and take action," he says.

Also, while 60% of Americans feel informed about the ACA and 72% feel prepared for the individual mandate requirement of the ACA-up from July’s 48% and 63% respectively-59% have done nothing in the past 12 months to study their healthcare options.

Other survey findings include:

• More than one-quarter (29%) of the general population reports a pre-existing medical condition;

• Seventy-one percent of those with a pre-existing condition were not hindered in their ability to obtain health insurance, but 29% were not able to get health insurance because it was too expensive (19%) or they were not able to find coverage (10%).

• Among those who reported being unable to afford or access health insurance due to a pre-existing condition, 35% say they can now get coverage.

• A majority (55%) of the uninsured say they are “not sure” what they plan to do in response to the individual mandate.

• Only 10% of the uninsured population feels "very informed" about their current health insurance options and just 32% feel "somewhat" informed. “This is a significant decrease since July, when 56% of those uninsured felt somewhat or very informed about their health insurance options,” he said.

•  Given their low level of satisfaction with the quality of the healthcare system they have access to (34% versus 84% among both privately and publicly insured individuals), it may benefit the uninsured to learn about these new healthcare options.