Kaiser Family Foundation: Only 7% (or 27%) of uninsured know enrollment deadline

The Kaiser Family Foundation just released their latest monthly healthcare tracking poll, and the results are forehead-slappingly depressing:

The Affordable Care Act’s third open enrollment period will end on Jan. 31, but the latest Kaiser Health Tracking Poll finds that only a small share of people without health insurance realize it.

Just 7 percent of the uninsured correctly identify January as the deadline to enroll; another 20 percent say the deadline is at the end of 2015, while everyone else either says they don’t know, gives another date or says the deadline has already passed.

OK, I'm willing to give the additional 20% a bit of slack here, since there are actually three deadlines: One for coverage starting in January, one for coverage starting in February and finally, the 1/31 deadline for coverage starting in March. The actual wording of the question as asked was:

  • "As you may know, the healthcare law requires nearly all Americans to have health insurance, or else pay a fine. Do you happen to know the deadline for individuals to sign up for health insurance?"

With that wording, I can see people answering "the end of 2015", which is a valid answer for coverage starting in January. Furthermore, given the shifting deadlines for January coverage (which now range from 12/17 - 12/28 depending on the state), a generic "end of 2015" response seems reasonable to me.

Even with that, it's still pretty depressing that only 27% have the slightest clue as to the enrollment deadline. And no, this isn't just low education folks; my own cousin, who has several advanced degrees, is reasonably tech literate and so on, didn't realize that Tuesday was the original deadline here in Michigan until after HealthCare.Gov extended the deadline by the extra two days. Fortunately she was able to get signed up last night (chalk one more up for Michigan!), but that's still not a great sign overall.

On the other hand, HHS also reported record-breaking traffic on Monday and Tuesday, and said that over a million people who couldn't get through left their contact info for callbacks, so perhaps people did get the message over the past week (the Kaiser study was done the first week of December).


People without health insurance remain a key outreach target for the government, outreach groups, and insurers, and the poll finds one in five (20%) report that over the past six months they have personally been contacted by someone about signing up for coverage.

The majority (65%) of the uninsured think they are personally required to have health insurance, though about a quarter (27%) say they don’t think the requirement applies to them personally. (Some in fact may be exempt under specific provisions of the law.)

When asked why they have not personally purchased health insurance this year, nearly half of the uninsured (46%) say they have tried to get coverage but that it was too expensive. Relatively few cite other reasons, including 9 percent who say they’d rather pay a fine than pay for insurance.

The 9% who say they'd rather pay the fine may be accurate, but I wonder how many of those folks are aware that the mandate penalty has gone up substantially? If they think it's only the nominal $95 or so from 2014, that's understandable; given that it's up to $695 (or 2.5% of household income) this year, they may be in for a bit of a shock at taxtime...

Still, there's some good news here as well:

Most of the uninsured (55%) say they plan to get health insurance in the next few months. Some may in fact be in the midst of a brief period without insurance; however, a majority (55%) say that they have been uninsured for at least two years.

Again, assuming those 55% are serious and get the message that January 31st is the "true" deadline, a large portion of them should be signing up soon.