Survey Results on Health Insurance Awareness and Coverage Rates
Today, health policy organization the Commonwealth Fund released a new report on gaps in health insurance coverage among Americans and how the Affordable Care Act will help narrow those gaps. The survey addressed many different aspects of consumers’ experiences, knowledge, and attitudes relating to health insurance and the changes that resulted from health reform. Respondents were adults age 19 to 64.
Expanding coverage for young adults and introducing high-risk health insurance pools were major parts of the 2010 law. However, according to a blog post by Christian Torres of Kaiser Health News, the survey results showed that the groups most likely to benefit from these provisions weren’t always aware of them. While most respondents knew that young adults under 26 would be able to stay on their parents’ insurance plans, 40% of those age 19 to 29 – the group that stands to benefit – were not aware of it. As of December 2011, federal officials estimated that 2.5 million young adults have gained coverage since the law was passed, but that number appeared to be plateauing. Low awareness within the target group may be the reason.
Similarly, 45% of people in fair or poor health and 65% of people without insurance did not know about the high-risk pools. These pools were created to help people who would not find affordable coverage in the private market. In general, Democrats, minorities, young people, and people with low incomes were less likely to be aware of both provisions than Republicans, whites, older groups, and those with higher incomes, respectively.
But a lack of awareness is not the only challenge that the survey found. According to an article by Noam Levey of the Los Angeles Times, 26% of survey respondents were uninsured during part or all of 2011. Of those, more than half (57%) had been without health insurance for two years or longer. Another 12% were uninsured for one to two years.
Sadly, many of those without coverage had tried and failed to get it. According to the overview of survey results, 31% of the uninsured were charged a higher price, had a condition excluded, or were outright denied due to a preexisting condition. 62% of people who tried to get health insurance in the past three years found it very difficult or impossible to find an affordable plan. Of those who tried, one of the report’s charts shows that 45% ultimately did not buy coverage, most (73%) of whom blamed high premiums, deductibles, and co-payments.
The Commonwealth Fund predicted that when health reform is fully implemented in 2014, these coverage gaps will decrease. This assumes that the law, which is currently being considered by the Supreme Court, is upheld.