Only about 15 percent of uninsured Americans—and 17 percent of the general public—know when open enrollment begins, despite health insurance marketplaces kicking off the third open season this Sunday, according to the October Kaiser Health Tracking Poll.
Earlier this month, the Health and Human Services Department announced that it anticipated 10 million Americans will likely have coverage and pay their premiums by the end of 2016—a modest estimate that included 2.8 to 3.9 million uninsured individuals. HHS noted those without insurance may be harder to reach since it’s the third go-around for open enrollment, and the Kaiser Family Foundation poll sheds light on just how difficult the task may be.
Out of those who are uninsured, roughly 2 in 10 have been contacted about the Affordable Care Act in the past six months. About 51 percent of those without health insurance haven’t had coverage for at least two years. Yet those surveyed indicated a willingness to sign up for coverage; almost half, when asked if they plan to get insurance in the next few months, said yes, according to the poll, which interviewed 1,203 adults from Oct. 14-20.
HHS has broken down the demographics of the 10.5 million who are uninsured yet could likely be eligible to hop on a health exchange. Almost 8 in 10 could qualify for financial assistance. Almost half are the “young invincibles” ages 18 to 34. About 19 percent are Hispanic, 14 percent are black, and 2 percent are Asian. And nearly 40 percent live on incomes between $30,000 to $60,000 for a family of four.
In mid-October, HHS outlined its game plan to target enrollees using localized and digital campaigns in both English and Spanish while also working with nonprofits, health care providers, businesses and more.
HealthCare.gov, the federal exchange servicing 38 states, opened for window-shopping Sunday, allowing potential consumers to compare the financial details of various health plans. But when the marketplaces first opened for enrollment in 2013, HealthCare.gov and some state exchanges came under fire for technological glitches and a bumbled rollout that was frustrating for health insurance shoppers.
In a briefing with reporters Friday, Kevin Counihan—the HealthCare.gov CEO—said the system is stable and the focus now is on personalizing the consumer experience and providing more tools to help enrollees choose the right plan. Tools allowing consumers to search health plans for a specific doctor and for a specific drug are “coming soon,” and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services officials wouldn’t give a concrete timetable for their launch.
“Are we going to have bumps in this open enrollment? You bet,” Counihan said. “Are they going to be permanent and long-lasting? No. Are we going to be able to identify them quickly? You bet. Are we going to be able to fix them fast? Absolutely.”
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