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Many Uninsured Don't Know When Next Health Law Sign-Up Begins, Poll Shows

By John Reichard, CQ HealthBeat Editor

October 21, 2014 -- Relatively few uninsured Americans as of early October knew when they'd next have a chance to buy coverage under the health law, according to a survey, and almost half weren't aware they could get subsidies to help pay their premiums. Nevertheless, most said they'd get insured in the next few months.

The Kaiser Family Foundation's latest health law tracking poll, conducted October 8 to 14, surveyed 1,503 insured and uninsured adults. It showed insurers face a tough challenge for the open enrollment period running from Nov. 15 through Feb.15, during which government officials are aiming to enroll twice as many Americans.

While experts say it's better not to heavily promote health coverage when people can't actually sign up, messages about when enrollment begins, and the availability of help paying premiums, could get the period off to a faster start.

The survey found that 89 percent of uninsured respondents didn't know that open enrollment begins in November. Two-thirds of the group says they know "only a little" or "nothing at all" about insurance exchanges where they can sign up. And 53 percent said they were unaware they could get financial assistance to get coverage.

Yet 59 percent of the uninsured said they would get covered in the next few months. Eighteen percent said they expected to remain without coverage because they don't think they could find an affordable plan. And 12 percent of uninsured respondents said they expected to stay that way because they don't want to be forced to buy anything; the cohort included 3 percent who said they'd rather pay a fine for not getting covered than foot the costs of health insurance.

In the overall sample, 43 percent of Americans said they view the health law (PL 111-148, PL 111-152) unfavorably while 36 percent regarded it favorably. Fifty-six percent of Americans said the law had had no direct effect on their family. Among those saying the law had a direct impact, 26 percent said it hurt then and 16 percent said it helped them.

The survey had a margin of error of three percentage points for the full sample and nine percentage points for the uninsured group.

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