Lack of Awareness of Affordable Care Act Provisions Persists

The general public continues to be unaware of the major provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) as three recent studies show.

Kaiser Poll

According to the September 2013 Kaiser Health Tracking Poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), two-thirds of the public were unaware that the ACA-created health insurance exchanges were due to begin enrollment on October 1. Despite outreach efforts by the Obama administration and supporters of the law, the poll found the number of uninsured unaware of the opening date is even greater than the general public, with three out of every four individuals not knowing the marketplaces are supposed to open in October.

Slightly over half of those polled by KFF said they do not have enough information about the ACA to understand it. Of those, 19 percent said they wanted to know how the law was funded and what they would have to pay. Another 18 percent said they wanted someone to explain the law in a simple, concise way.

The public view of the law, which KFF has been tracking since the ACA passed in 2010, remains consistently divided, with 43 percent disliking it and 39 percent favoring it.

The poll surveyed 1,503 adults between September 12 and 18.

Commonwealth Fund

The Commonwealth Fund Health Insurance Marketplace Survey found that while 76 percent of U.S. adults are aware of the ACA’s individual mandate, only four in ten are aware of the health insurance marketplaces, or the financial assistance that is available to help individuals with low or moderate incomes pay their health insurance premiums. This is especially true of the uninsured: only 32 percent of individuals without health coverage during the past year are aware of the marketplaces, compared to 43 percent of those with coverage all year. In addition, 31 percent of people without coverage during the year are aware of the subsidies that are available, compared to 43 percent of those insured all year.

The Commonwealth Fund study also found that 65 percent of those ages 30 to 49 and 62 percent of those ages 50 to 64 who are potentially eligible for the coverage options in the marketplace said they are likely to use the marketplaces. In addition, just under half (47 percent) of adults are aware that health insurance carriers are now banned from denying coverage to people with a preexisting condition, or from charging them more money or refusing to cover a condition in their policy. The survey was conducted between July and September 2013.

Transamerica Center For Health Studies

The First Annual Transamerica Center for Health Studies Survey: Benchmark on Health Care Coverage Perceptions and Readiness found that many workers and employers feel that they do not yet have the information needed to make decisions about the ACA: only 13 percent of workers and 25 percent of employers feel very informed about the ACA.

Workers clearly identified the information they need to feel better informed about their health care coverage options, including: description of the available benefits, a comparison of how the cost of health insurance may change, and a comparison of coverage among the available plans. When asked what they provided to workers, only 12 percent of employers reported providing all three pieces of information. About half of employers provide a description of benefits, 30 percent provide either a comparison of coverage options, and 24 percent provide a comparison of cost.

The majorities of workers and employers indicated that they are prepared to make health coverage decisions related to the ACA, but many have not taken any action to prepare, Transamerica found. Sixty-seven percent of workers felt they were prepared to make decisions about their health coverage by January 2014, but 57 percent also said they had done nothing in the past 12 months to prepare for the ACA.