Obamacare enrollment soars in 2016, but the work’s not over yet

Health Insurance

January 13, 2016

As the latest Open Enrollment Period (OEP) for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) continues, Americans are eagerly purchasing health insurance. The results are impressive, with more than 8.5 million having enrolled as of Dec. 26, 2015. A new poll is shedding some interesting light on consumers’ preferences. Among the findings are their motivations for enrolling – or not. And while the government is shown to be doing well in enrollment, the poll shows that certain consumers may prove harder to reach.

The current sign-up rates show as many as 14.7 million should enroll by the end of 2016, compared to 2014’s prediction of 9.1 million. According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), which oversees the nation’s healthcare system, 8,524,935 plan sign-ups were recorded from Nov. 1-Dec. 26, 2015.  On a personal level: 8 percent of Americans had a family member who was able to get or keep coverage due to Obamacare; 6 percent claimed easier access to necessary care; and 3 percent reported lower health care or insurance costs.

Awareness key to increasing sign-ups

The poll did reveal some difficulties in getting uninsured consumers between 18-64-years-old to sign up. The Kaiser researchers found that 55 percent had been uninsured for two years or more. And while 55 percent planned to purchase insurance in the next few months, 40 percent had no plans to do so. Other findings included:

  • 7 percent were aware that the OEP ended on 31, 2016
  • 20 percent reported being contacted about enrollment within the previous six months
  • 20 percent thought the enrollment deadline was at the end of 2015
  • 3 percent gave another date
  • 65 percent had no idea when the deadline was

Financial concerns played a major role in the findings, with 46 percent of the uninsured admitting to avoiding enrollment due to costs. Besides the risk of going without insurance, missing the deadline may put consumers at risk for tax penalties; however, some may qualify for hardship exemptions and avoid them. Regardless, 9 percent stated that they preferred paying the penalties over the plan costs. If found liable, you’ll pay the greater of:

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

The December 2015 Kaiser Health Tracking Poll is produced and released by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), an influential, health-related nonprofit. The government considers it instrumental, as it measures how the ACA is doing among consumers, in terms of: its provisions, public familiarity, early experiences, implementation and overall favorability.