National Survey of the Uninsured Finds Lack of Awareness of Tax Credits – Not Website Problems – Main Barrier to Health Care Enrollment

72% of Uninsured Aren’t Yet Aware That Tax Subsidies are Available;
Enroll America Announces “Staffing Surge” to Make Sure Consumers Understand Their Options

Thursday, January 9, 2014
Contact: Justin Nisly | 202-601-2494

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Enroll America announced the results of a national survey that offers a snapshot of what uninsured consumers are hearing and thinking midway through the Affordable Care Act open enrollment. The survey found that interest in purchasing health insurance is very high, and that lack of awareness about financial assistance – not early technical problems with HealthCare.Gov – is the biggest obstacle to further enrollment. The survey, which was conducted by prominent health care research firm PerryUndem, also found that more than 8 in 10 uninsured Americans say they would sign up for an affordable health insurance plan if one is available.

In response to the new data, Enroll America also announced that it has hired 58 new organizers—a 30% increase in field capacity—in its 11 target states as part of a “staffing surge” aimed at reaching even more consumers with financial assistance information over the final three months of open enrollment.

“We’re thrilled that after a rocky start, more than 6 million Americans have now enrolled in Marketplace or Medicaid coverage since October 1—but we know our work is far from over,” said Anne Filipic, President of Enroll America. “When consumers learn that financial assistance is available to help them find insurance that fits their needs and budget, they’re eager to enroll. That’s why we’ve increased our field staffing by 30% to help spread the word in communities across the country.”

PerryUndem interviewed more than 900 uninsured adults for the survey (details here), which examined awareness levels and experiences around early enrollment through the Affordable Care Act. Media coverage of the rollout of the Affordable Care Act initially focused on the technical problems with HealthCare.Gov, and the survey found that the majority of the uninsured have heard of the website. However, 7 in 10 uninsured adults have not yet visited their online marketplace. About half of those who visited experienced glitches, but 92% either went back to try again or plan to in the future. As a result, the website problems in October and November do not seem to have had a significant impact on the uninsured.

Rather, the survey suggests that because attention has focused on the website and not on the tax credits that are available to low and middle income families, most consumers remain unaware of the financial help that may be available to them. 7 out of 10 uninsured Americans say that they haven’t previously purchased insurance because they couldn’t afford it, and about the same number of consumers say they are unaware that they may be eligible for financial assistance. Still, 6 in 10 uninsured Americans already plan to purchase insurance soon, and more than 8 in 10 say they would sign up for a quality health plan if it was affordable. The data suggests that a lack of facts about affordability may be the biggest barrier to enrolling as many uninsured consumers as possible.

As one part of a strategy to make sure consumers have the information they need, Enroll America has hired an additional 58 organizers who started work this week in 11 target states. This “staffing surge” brings Enroll America’s total staff to more than 250, and will help to grow the pool of more than 14,000 volunteers that are reaching out to family, friends, and neighbors during the final three months of open enrollment. Some of the organizers will allow the campaign to expand into previously untouched areas, while others will expand outreach capacity in places with high-density uninsured population.

The survey shows that African-American and Latino consumers – as well as those that lack a college degree or are lower-income – are less likely to be aware of their new options. Because Enroll America’s face-to-face field outreach model is particularly effective at finding and educating consumers that are difficult to reach in other ways, the 30% boost in field capacity will help to reach consumers who might not otherwise enroll in coverage. And because all of the new staffers are local to their communities and familiar with Enroll America’s outreach strategy, they will be able to immediately contribute and expand the scope of the outreach campaign.

In addition to the staffing surge, Enroll America has also modified phone call and canvassing scripts to emphasize information about the financial help that is available, and optimized their digital advertising campaign to guide consumers to the Get Covered Calculator, a consumer-friendly tool that quickly provides individuals and families with realistic cost estimates for new coverage. The Get Covered Calculator uses the most up-to-date data to provide consumers an estimate of what assistance they’re eligible for, and then connects them directly to the appropriate place for them to start the enrollment process.

A full breakdown of the survey data is available HERE.


About Get Covered America and Enroll America

Get Covered America is a national campaign of Enroll America that is focused on educating consumers about the benefits of health coverage and the new health insurance available under the Affordable Care Act. With operations in eleven states (AZ, FL, GA, IL, MI, NC, NJ, OH, PA, TN and TX), our grassroots team is powered by passionate staff and volunteers with one motivating goal: to give Americans the information they need to choose an affordable health insurance plan that’s right for them and their families.

Enroll America is the nation’s leading health care enrollment coalition, bringing together community and health organizations, businesses and others to inform consumers about the new health coverage options and how to enroll in them. It is an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit 501c(3) organization.

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