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Health Care

Uninsured Americans Still Don't Know About ACA

The deadline to have health insurance coverage by the new year is right around the corner, but that doesn’t mean uninsured Americans are flocking to the Affordable Care Act’s exchanges.

A poll from the Transamerica Center for Health Studies, a private nonprofit foundation, finds that while 60% of Americans feel up to speed on the law, about the same percentage (59%) haven’t taken any action in the past year to prepare to meet the new mandate.

The study was conducted in November by Harris Interactive among 1,005 U.S. adults.

The poll also finds that uninsured people have more questions than answers about the new law: 31% of uninsured people say they have not even heard of the federal and state exchanges, compared to 15% of the general population who are aware of the marketplaces created to sign people up for insurance.

Only 7% of the uninsured population feel ‘very prepared’ to make health-insurance choices after the individual mandate requirement kicks in on Jan.1, and only 35% feel “somewhat” prepared. This is up from 30% reporting they feel at least “somewhat prepared” in July.

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Hector De La Torre, executive director of Transamerica Center, says it’s risky for uninsured people to delay signing up.

“The uninsured are right in the cross hairs of that individual mandate,” De La Torre says. “And 55% said they are unsure of what they will do. This is late stage and well into the open enrollment period.”

Under the ACA, every individual in the country is mandated to obtain coverage by the end of open enrollment period on April 1. After that point, anyone who fails to comply and doesn’t have coverage for up to three consecutive months will face a penalty of $95 or 1% of their annual income per year.

For people who want coverage starting Jan. 1, they must enroll by Dec. 23.  

More than half of Americans also said their employer had not provided them information about the ACA or weren’t sure if they were provided information.

Of course, De La Torre says workers might be ignoring their employers’ communication efforts.

“This is a very troubling number,” he says. “It’s possible they didn’t get their notices from employers, or ignored them. But this is something we have to get cleared up before the employer mandate kicks in on January 1, 2015.”

The employer mandate of the law, which was pushed back to 2015, requires all businesses with at least 50 or more full-time workers offer their employees coverage or face a penalty of $2,000 per worker, per year.

Follow Kate Rogers on Twitter at @KateRogersNews

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