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Consumers with pre-existing conditions undecided about whether they'll buy coverage

Posted On Thu, August 8, 2013

Even though the individual mandate of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act goes into effect in less than five months, a substantial number of Americans still aren't sure if they will purchase coverage, no matter what health insurance rates happen to be, new polling data shows.

According to the survey, which was conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International, close to seven in 10 individuals - 68 percent - with pre-existing conditions say that they aren't fully sure yet about what they'll do in 2014: buy a plan or go without one and pay the fine.

Should consumers opt not to buy coverage, they will be charged a flat fee of $95.

Laura Adams, senior insurance analyst for a quote comparison website that commissioned the poll, noted that what's especially striking about this finding is that this sentiment is held by individuals who will likely need to rely on health insurance in order to pay for medical services or treatments.

"A key goal of the ACA is to provide affordable health insurance to people with pre-existing conditions," said Adams. "Many observers are worried that healthy Americans won't sign up for health insurance next year. This research suggests that we should also be worried about unhealthy Americans failing to enroll."

Health policy experts say that there's a concern that if few people decide to pay the fine, premiums could ultimately increase because there's a smaller pool in which consumers are buying, so raising rates may be necessary in order to cover the difference.

Something else that the report found was that many people don't think the American public in general has all the information they need to know about the ACA. The PRSAI survey showed that 85 percent of Americans don't believe their fellow consumers have the understanding they need to make an informed opinion about the utility of the healthcare overhaul.

Additionally, respondents were also not sure if they themselves had all of the facts. Approximately seven in 10 said that they were unclear about how the law would wind up affecting their personal financial situation.

Many misinformed about what products are available through exchanges
There's a general misunderstanding about what the state-run insurance marketplaces provide as well, according to the PRSAI poll. Four in 10 said that they weren't sure if the state-based exchanges would, in addition to health coverage, also make other types of insurance available, such as for auto, life or home.

The only product the exchanges will make available for purchase are for health. However, it appears that some people think otherwise. Roughly 20 percent noted that consumers will be able to purchase a variety of insurance products at these exchanges, which is inaccurate.

Though every state is required to set up an insurance exchange, more than half have refused to do so. Twenty-seven legislatures have told the government that they refuse to establish them, leaving them to the federal government to not only organize but maintain so that people have a way to buy insurance.

While the healthcare law itself is several thousands of pages long, there are many different resources that can be looked at it to get a better understanding of what the law is all about and how it will impact the everyday consumer. One of the more comprehensive ones has been created by the Department of Health and Human Services at Healthcare.gov. Visitors can see how many days are left until open enrollment begins, whether their state has a marketplace established yet, as well as what strategies can be done to lower one's premium costs.

Feedback or questions? Email the editor here.

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