Many American’s Are Still Without Health Insurance

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October 23, 2014 by Lisa Brammer

The number of uninsured American’s has dropped significantly since the Affordable Care Act went into effect in January, yet according to a survey released by the Transamerica Center for Health Studies, 15 percent of the population still remains uninsured.

How does this compare to previous years? That’s hard to say since the government recently changed how they conduct their surveys making year-to-year comparisons impossible.

According to a CBS news report (Moneywatch, 09/14/2014) the U.S. Census Bureau now considers a person insured if they have had insurance anytime during the year. If a person had insurance, let’s say, for 1-2 months, but lost it due to unemployment, nonpayment, or for any reason—they would still be counted amongst the insured. The Census Bureau’s new methodology considers people to be uninsured only if they have never had insurance coverage anytime during the year. And their recently released statistics shows only 13.4 percent had no coverage.

In their study,”One Year In: Americans Respond to the Affordable Care Act” Transamerica considered people to be insured if they had health insurance coverage in July 2014, which explains the discrepancy in the statistics.

According to this study, individuals that continue to be uninsured are most likely either young (44 percent) Latino (31 percent) or unemployed (23 Percent). Many of the uninsured (46 percent) reported that they were unaware of the individual mandate provision of Obamacare and 22 percent of those cited that as the reason they did not obtain health insurance coverage prior to the ACA deadline.

For many, unaffordability is the major reason for their lack of coverage. Even if the monthly premium was $100, most uninsured Americans said they would be unable to afford health insurance (just over 50 percent of newly insured Americans are able to afford health insurance premiums of $100/month). 27 percent said that paying the tax penalty and health expenses costs them less than paying for health insurance. Also, 43 percent of the uninsured said they were unaware of state exchanges where they could apply for assistance.

For the newly insured—those that were previously uninsured but have obtained health insurance coverage within the past 12 months—30 percent purchased their insurance through a Marketplace exchange, 28 percent obtained coverage through a government-sponsored program, and 33 percent acquired their health insurance through an employer or family member’s plan.

But, even with insurance the newly insured may experience more financial difficulties than their continuously insured counterparts. Only 10 percent of the newly insured are saving for health care expenses (vs. 26 percent among continuously insured) and 39 percent say they cannot afford routine health expenses (vs. 17 percent among continuously insured). But this does not mean that the continuously insured have not been financially impacted since Obamacare went into effect—almost half (48 percent) have seen either the cost of their premium, out-of-pocket expenses, or deductible increase as a result of the ACA.

On November 15, 2014 the second annual open-enrollment period for the ACA will begin and millions of uninsured Americans will have another opportunity to sign up for coverage through the healthcare exchanges but a new survey shows that a huge percentage of these individuals are unaware of that fact.

The Kaiser Family Foundation conducted a survey about the healthcare law from Oct 8-14, 2014. According to the results of this survey almost 90 percent of the uninsured are unaware that open-enrollment begins in November and two-thirds said they know “only a little” or “nothing at all” about the marketplaces where people can obtain insurance if they cannot get it through their employers. It also showed that over half (53 percent) of the uninsured are not aware of the financial assistance available to low and moderate income individuals to help purchase insurance through the Marketplaces.

This month’s survey also found that that more people continue to view Obamacare unfavorably at 43 percent compared to favorably at 36 percent. The gap was largest in July when unfavorable views increased to 53 percent. Now it has returned to the same level as it was when open enrollment began year.

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