Workplace

Health insurance deadline looms without decisions

Updated: 2013-09-25T14:28:14Z

By DIANE STAFFORD

The Kansas City Star

A new telephone survey of American adults finds that most of those without health insurance are unsure how they will comply with the Affordable Care Act.

The poll, released by InsuranceQuotes.com, found nearly two-thirds of the respondents haven’t decided whether to buy health insurance by the Jan. 1 deadline.

The Affordable Care Act requires Americans to have health insurance or pay a penalty of $95 or 1 percent of household income, whichever is greater.

The survey, conducted in May by Princeton Survey Research Associates International, found that part of the indecision stemmed from people not knowing whether they would qualify for federal subsidies to help them buy insurance.

About three out of five of the uninsured surveyed said they didn’t have health insurance because they couldn’t afford it.

“Even though the new health care law has been hotly debated for years, a shocking number of Americans are still unsure how it will affect them,” said Laura Adams, a senior insurance analyst with InsuranceQuotes.com.

Federal- and state-operated health exchanges — online sites to allow consumers to compare insurance plans and costs — are supposed to begin accepting applications in October. But details aren’t yet available to help people make purchase decisions.

The InsuranceQuotes.com survey built on other polls that showed considerable ignorance and misinformation about the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

In April, a Kaiser Family Foundation study said 42 percent of Americans were unaware that the act was still law, “including 12 percent who believe the law has been repealed by Congress, 7 percent who believe it has been overturned by the Supreme Court and 23 percent who say they don’t know enough to say what the status of the law is.”

In the new survey, only 19 percent said they intended to get health insurance by the Jan. 1 deadline. Ten percent said they planned to stay uninsured and pay the penalty.

The health care act is designed to provide subsidies — in the form of tax credits — to individuals and families with household incomes of up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level. Many Americans are unaware of what that means and don’t know how to research it.

For example, the household income in 2013 for a family of four would be $94,200 at the designation of 400 percent of poverty.

The survey found that 58 percent of those surveyed weren’t sure how to calculate their eligibility for subsidies.

The poll also found that six in 10 Americans believe health insurance costs will rise because of the law.

To reach Diane Stafford, call 816-234-4359 or send email to stafford@kcstar.com.

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