More than half of uninsured don’t know health care law deadline is looming

Eric Pfeiffer
Yahoo News

A new national survey of Americans without health insurance finds that more than half are not aware that the deadline to obtain coverage under the Affordable Care Act is less than a week away.

The poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation finds that 61 percent of uninsured Americans either are not aware of the deadline or think it does not take effect until later than it does.

Only 39 percent of uninsured individuals in the survey correctly identified the March 31 deadline.

Does that mean the uninsured simply need to be educated about getting health care coverage? Not exactly.

The survey also found that 50 percent of the uninsured plan to remain without coverage, even if they do know about the upcoming deadline. Some individuals, including conservative media guru Matt Drudge, say they refuse to get covered and are already making payments on their eventual ACA noncoverage penalties.

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However, 40 percent did say they plan to get covered before the deadline, which correlates with the Obama administration claims that there has been a substantial spike in coverage inquiries over the past few weeks leading up to the deadline.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday that President Barack Obama is making a personal plea to get supporters signed up for the law. As of early March, the administration said about 5 million individuals had signed up for coverage, about 1 million short of the revised goal of 6 million enrollees by March 31.

“I need your help, and it’s easy,” reads the subject line of an email from Organizing for Action and carrying the president’s digital signature.

Part of Obama’s personal plea might be further reflected in the Kaiser survey data, which says that among the uninsured, approximately 40 percent are not aware that the government offers financial subsidies to low-income individuals and families in need of coverage.

Also on Wednesday, the Department of Health and Human Services announced that it would extend the March 31 deadline for individuals who had already begun the enrollment process for acquiring health insurance but had not yet completed the paperwork or payments.

Despite the apparent confusion among many of the uninsured, the survey also included some positive information about the health care law.

“Among the public overall, general opinion of the ACA moved in a more positive direction this month for the first time since November’s post-rollout negative shift in opinion,” the survey’s authors write.

Forty-six percent of respondents still say they have an unfavorable view of the law, but that’s only 8 percentage points more than the 38 percent who now say they have a generally favorable view, an uptick of 4 percentage points since the beginning of 2014.

Interestingly enough, favorable views of the ACA are actually spiking among the uninsured, with 37 percent expressing a positive take on the law, a jump of 22 percentage points since the beginning of the year. Still, a plurality (47 percent) of the uninsured remains opposed to the health care law.