Commonwealth Fund: 81% of Exchange enrollees satisfied w/coverage, 53% newly insured

Over at The Hill, Sarah Ferris writes about a just-released Commonwealth Fund survey which provides a whole bunch of data regarding the state of ACA enrollment as of 2nd quarter of 2015. Her main takeaways:

A new survey finds that 81 percent those enrolled in ObamaCare plans are satisfied with their health insurance.

The survey from the Commonwealth Fund, a health research group, found that 45 percent of people enrolled through ObamaCare’s marketplaces are “somewhat satisfied,” and 36 percent are “very satisfied.” Fifteen percent are not satisfied.

The 81% number refers specifically to ACA exchange-purchased QHPs; it doesn't include off-exchange enrollments or Medicaid expansion. While the survey doesn't break the numbers out this way, I'd be willing to bet that the 15% who aren't satisfied mostly consist of those who also aren't receiving federal tax credits to help pay for the premiums.

ObamaCare also expanded Medicaid, the government health insurance program for the poor, in states that agreed to accept the expansion — 29 so far. The survey finds that 93 percent of people enrolled in Medicaid are satisfied with their plans.

This one isn't quite as impressive, actually, although it does shut down the memes claiming that everyone hates Medicaid (actually, the ones who hate Medicaid seem to mostly be those who aren't actually enrolled in it).

A separate Commonwealth Fund report notedthat ObamaCare has encouraged the trend of insurers covering narrow networks of doctors. But the survey finds that 91 percent of people with new ObamaCare coverage who have used their plans are satisfied with the doctors covered.

In other words, yes, the "Narrow Networks!!" attack is accurate...but also kind of toothless, because very few people seem to give too much of a crap. It's basically a mountain-out-of-molehill situation, just as it was last fall.

There generally were not long wait times for getting a doctor’s appointment, either. Sixty percent were able to get an appointment with a new primary care doctor within two weeks. Eleven percent had to wait more than 30 days.

Gee, that sounds pretty much...exactly the same as it was before the ACA. As far back as I can remember, into my 20's, sometimes I was able to get right in and sometimes I had to wait several weeks. Again, small potatoes.

A major question around the law has been how many people who have signed up were previously uninsured. The survey finds that more than half — 53 percent — of people enrolled through ObamaCare’s marketplaces were previously uninsured.

THIS really deserves a headline all to itself. As you may recall, back in March 2014, Avik Roy and I locked horns something fierce over a report called the "McKinsey Study" which claimed that only 27% of ACA exchange enrollees were previously uninsured. I correctly pointed out that while the study itself was valid, there was absolutely no way of drawing any conclusions about the exchange numbers specifically because it mixed together both on and off-exchange enrollments.

My back-of-the-envelope math estimate was that perhaps 50% of exchange-specific enrollees would turn out to be newly insured last year. I was more than vindicated when the Kaiser Family Foundation released a survey concluding that it was even better: 57% of ACA exchange enrollees were newly insured.

Cut to this year. At first glance, the Commonwealth Fund's 53% sounds lower than KFF's findings...but remember that these percentages are divided into two very different numbers, a year apart.

In 2014, KFF found that 57% of appx. 7.1 million (paying) exchange QHP enrollees were newly insured...or around 4.0 million.

In 2015, Commonwealth finds that 53% of appx. 10.7 million (paying) exchange QHP enrollees are newly insured...or around 5.7 million.

Of course, that 5.7 million includes those who were a) newly insured last year and b) renewed their policies for 2015, so it's more like:

  • 4.0 million newly insured via ACA exchange policies in 2014
  • 1.7 million more newly insured via ACA exchange policies in 2015

However, there's not an exact overlap here due to churn/attrition; some of last year's 4 million moved on to other coverage. If so, then perhaps 2 million of the 5.7 million total are brand-newly insured in 2015 specifically.

Overall, this is excellent news across the board. There's one turd in the punchbowl, however...and as you might expect, it's jaw-dropping ignorance and misinformation:

However, the report finds that there remains a lack of knowledge about key aspects of the law. Just 46 percent of the uninsured are aware that financial assistance for buying insurance is available under the law. That’s more than the 29 percent who were aware in 2013, but about the same as the 47 percent aware last year.

And the lack of knowledge appears to have an effect. The leading reason — with 60 percent — that uninsured people cite for not visiting ObamaCare’s marketplace is that they think they could not afford insurance.

(sigh) Mazel Tov, FOX News; mission accomplished.