The window to shop around for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act begins in 15 days. Turns out if you’re among the roughly 40 million Americans without coverage, you’re highly likely not to know that fact.
According to a recent Kaiser Health Tracking Poll, nine out of 10 uninsured Americans were unaware of the upcoming open enrollment period. When you pair that with the six in 10 that say they plan to get health insurance in the coming months, it’s clear that a great deal of education needs to be done among uninsured populations.
So why the lack of awareness? A number of factors are at play. First, last year’s open enrollment period captured many of the “low-hanging fruit” of the uninsured—people who were newly eligible for coverage and were motivated to seek it out. This time around, advocates have to work harder and smarter to reach consumers so they understand their options. Second, we’re in the home stretch of election season and the messages people are hearing about Obamacare right now are more often than not from critics of reform, not about the options consumers have.
Interestingly, the level of awareness (or lack thereof) to this point is similar as before the last open enrollment period, so it’s likely to change—and fast. The federal government, state insurance marketplaces and advocates are ramping up their outreach, education and enrollment efforts. But with a short three month window to sign-up or change a current plan, it’s time to get to work.