Awareness and knowledge of health insurance reform still limited three years later

Only 8% of consumers have never heard of health insurance reform under the name Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA or ACA) or “ObamaCare” which was passed in March 2010. One-third of consumers have heard of the law, but have no idea what’s in it. Over 40% say they know something about it while only 3% boldly proclaim that they know almost everything in the 2,000+ page law.

Although the percentage who have not heard of the law has declined from 21% in Q2 2011 to 8% in Q2 2013, the percentage who say they know everything about it has remained virtually unchanged and the percentage who know a lot about it has only increased from 7% to 15% in two years.

Knowledge of ACA / Health Insurance Reform
2011 vs. 2013 results

The uninsured and those who purchase individual insurance coverage directly today are expected to receive the most benefit from ACA. Yet, the uninsured know the least about ACA and those with an individual product are polarized with 12% saying they have never heard of it and 30% saying they know a lot or everything about it.  College graduates and the highest income consumers are the most knowledgeable.   Over 57% of Disengaged consumers know nothing about the law while only 18% of Engaged consumers know nothing about it.

Testing their knowledge of ACA

Those who are at least aware of ACA were asked to select amongst six statements the ones they believe to be true.  Only 59% of consumers correctly indicated that the biggest changes due to ACA are coming in 2014 when federal and state marketplaces go into effect. Similarly, 58% correctly indicated that some parts of ACA have already been implemented (e.g. universal coverage of children up to age 26 on parents’ plans, phasing out maximum coverage limits, etc.).  However, 12% said nothing has happened so far and 4% think the law is completely implemented.  Almost 6% think the law was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court and 9% incorrectly believe the law was repealed by Congress.

The 65 – 79 year olds were least likely to select any of the incorrect responses while 18 – 30 and 31 – 44 year olds were much more likely to do so.  Although the most Engaged consumers say they know more than Disengaged consumers about ACA, they do not know as much as they think. Engaged consumers were no more likely than the Disengaged to select one of the two true statements from our list and they were slightly more likely to incorrectly say the law was repealed by Congress.  Here are the percent of consumers overall who selected each statement:

  • 59% indicated that the “biggest changes go into place in January 2014”
  • 58% indicated that “parts of it have been implemented already”
  • 12% incorrectly indicated that “nothing has happened so far”
  • 9% incorrectly indicated that “it was repealed by Congress”
  • 6% incorrectly indicated that “the Supreme Court ruled the entire law unconstitutional”
  • 4% incorrectly indicated that “it has been completely implemented”

Employers are not spreading the word about ACA

Only 28% of consumers with group health insurance coverage say their employer has provided any information regarding health reform (ACA or “ObamaCare”). The low proportion could be due to inattention from less engaged employees since 51% of Engaged consumers say their employer has provided some information related to ACA while only 20% of Disengaged consumers gave this response. Whether Engaged consumers are more attentive or not, there are a lot of employers who have done nothing to let their employees know what is coming up with regard to health reform. Large employers will be required to notify their employees while small employers that do not offer coverage should find some value in promoting this new source of health insurance coverage and the potential federal subsidies that some employees will be eligible to receive.

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