New poll sheds light on the ACA’s progress and popularity


January 8, 2016

The latest Open Enrollment Period (OEP), the nation’s third, is going very well. In fact, the Obama administration now predicts as many as 14.7 million ACA enrollees by the end of 2016. The previous year’s estimates only predicted 9.1 million enrollees.

However, recent research suggests that few uninsured Americans are aware of upcoming enrollment deadlines — and the potential penalties. Many consumers have not been contacted about the need to sign up. As such, the government may need to expand its enrollment efforts before the OEP concludes on Jan. 31, 2016.

Enrollment up, but awareness lags

According to the December 2015 Kaiser Health Tracking Poll, as of Dec. 17, 2015, only 7 percent of the uninsured between 18 and 64 identified Jan. 31 as the last day of the OEP. Only 20 percent were contacted about the need to enroll within the previous six months. While some claimed to be in the midst of a brief period of uninsurance, 55 percent reported that these periods had lasted for two years or more. Another 55 percent planned on obtaining insurance in the next few months, while 40 percent expect to remain uninsured. Other findings included:

  • 20 percent thought the enrollment deadline was at the end of 2015
  • 6 percent thought it had already passed
  • 3 percent gave another date
  • 65 percent didn’t know when the deadline was at all

Regarding the enrollment requirements, 65 percent of the uninsured knew they had to have health insurance. However, 27 percent don’t believe the requirements applied to them personally, despite potential tax penalties. 46 percent of uninsured reported that they failed to purchase coverage due to it being too expensive. 9 percent stated that they preferred to pay the tax penalty, rather than pay for coverage. But not all consumers are subject to penalties, as they could qualify for hardship exemptions. If penalties are due, you’ll pay the greater of:

  • $695 per adult and $347.50 per child, for a maximum of $2,085 per family. In 2015, this was $325 per adult and $162.50 per child
  • 5 percent of your income above the tax filing threshold; in 2015, this was 2 percent in 2015

The law’s personal impact

The Kaiser poll revealed how Obamacare has affected consumers personally. Overall, 46 percent viewed it unfavorably, compared to 40 percent with favorable views. Additionally, 51 percent stated that they have not been directly impacted by the law. Among those who have benefited from the law:

  • 8 percent had a family member who was able to get or keep health insurance coverage
  • 6 percent found it easier to receive the care they needed
  • 3 percent claimed that their health care or insurance costs were reduced