Poll: Many struggle to pay health premiums under Obamacare

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Most people who signed up under President Barack Obama's health care law rate their new insurance highly, but a substantial number are struggling with the cost, according to a poll released Thursday.

The survey from the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation provides findings that both sides in the health care debate can seize on. It's an ambitious look at people who buy their coverage individually; they're the ones most affected by the Affordable Care Act.

"The critics' view of the law as an unmitigated disaster is far from true, but it's not what advocates might have hoped for either because many people still have concerns about affordability," said Drew Altman, CEO of the foundation, an information clearinghouse about the health care system.

The poll found that Obama's law is achieving one of its main goals by covering the uninsured. Fifty-seven percent of the 8 million people who bought a plan through the new insurance exchanges were previously uninsured.

But greater access to coverage has come at a price that's uncomfortably steep for many.

Despite the availability of generous subsidies, 4 in 10 of those who bought a plan that meets the law's specifications said they had difficulty paying their monthly premiums. That's a sobering reality check on assertions by the Obama administration that coverage is readily affordable.

Overall, employer coverage got much better ratings in the poll than did health law plans, which are meant for self-employed people and workers without access through their jobs.

The survey looked at several groups of people in the individual health care market:

— those who bought plans in the new insurance exchanges.

— those who bought plans outside the exchanges that nonetheless complied with the law's specifications.

— people who switched from previous coverage, either because it was canceled or they found a better deal.

— those who were able to keep the plan that they had before.

Since just the start of this year, the health law has come to dominate the individual insurance market.

The poll found that 68 percent of people purchasing their own coverage are enrolled in plans that comply with the law's standards. But those same consumers are divided about the law's impact. Roughly similar shares say have benefited (34 percent) as report being negatively affected (29 percent).

Among other findings:

— 7 in 10 rate their new coverage as excellent or good. That compares with 85 percent of those covered by employer plans and 85 percent of those who kept their previous individual coverage.

— 63 percent of those covered by health law plans said they are confident they will be able to pay for routine medical care. Enrollees were divided about paying for a major illness or accident, with 52 percent expressing confidence and 46 percent saying they were not too confident or not at all confident.

— Plan switchers, meaning those who found a better deal or whose previous coverage was canceled, were divided on the cost of their new premiums. Taking into account subsidies, 46 percent said that their premiums are lower now. But 39 percent reported higher premiums. Plan switchers were less likely to be satisfied with costs, perhaps because nearly half of them had their previous plan canceled. The wave of cancellations last fall was a major political problem for the White House.

— People who bought coverage through the insurance exchanges were more likely to be in poor health, a potentially significant finding for its impact on future premiums. Twenty percent reported their health as fair or poor, compared with 6 percent of those who were able to remain in their old plan.

The survey was based on telephone interviews conducted from April 3 through May 11, among a nationally representative random sample of 742 adults ages 18-64 who purchased their own insurance. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 4 percentage points for results based on the full sample, 5 percentage points for those in plans that comply with the health law, and 6 percentage points for those in plans bought through the exchanges.


  • Speak for yourself
    Indiana ACA rates are not affordable for everyone. My husband and I are both 34 and we have two kids. The cheapest plan in our part of Hamilton County is almost $800 per month for a plan with a $12,000 deductible. Whoever says that is affordable is lying to themselves. Please remember that ACA rates vary drastically by county and age. It might seem affordable to your parents (who may or may not be getting a subsidy), but it isn't affordable for us by any means.
  • BL: Most People Surveyed Like the ACA Insurance
    Although this is a somewhat limited survey methodologically, it appears that most of the comments are focused on something other than the main points in this article. Most people are very happy with their insurance under ACA and most will be able to pay their premiums.
  • Doesn't tell the whole story.
    I don't think this article is worth much. It says nothing about the cost of medicines/pharmaceuticals which is why you'd sign up for Insurance in the first place. I'm on disability and still have to some of my medicines from Canada to make ends meet. The ACA is not perfect but it's better than nothing.
  • Public Discussion is Good
    It's a good thing to have public discussions about the ACA and how it's working for Hoosiers. But I looked and looked and didn't find anything at the Kaiser Family Foundation that surveyed Hoosiers using alcohol and tobacco. It would seem that this is a bit off the issue. Maybe it just fits a stereotype that the bloggers are trying to picture. I DID find a reference to Hoosiers tobacco use, however. Just look at this link: http://www.stateoftobaccocontrol.org/state-grades/indiana/highlights.html It tells how the tobacco prevention funds were to be cut in half by Gov. Pence. Funding in 2013 survived with only a 38% cut, but the American Lung Assn gives Indiana an "F" in efforts to curb tobacco use. I guess other states are doing a more effective job in getting the word out about not using tobacco. For me, I'd like Hoosiers know that someone cares about their good health, and cares about young people starting to smoke. And anti-smoking campaigns may be one way to send that message, rather than just dividing the world into "us" and "them".
  • Risk corridors
    Brett-The bailouts are already happening. Look up "ACA Risk Corridors". What it means that the government is artificially holding back premium amounts from skyrocketing out of control and then giving billions of our tax dollars back to the insurance companies to make up for lost profits. Chip-I agree with you to a point. If you shift much of costs of writing off non-paying patients who now have insurance 1) Cost of care should decrease due to reduction in charitable write-offs of hospitals and 2) you are assuming those who have insurance are still going to pay for their deductible and/or coinsurance. #1 will never happen and #2 people who weren't responsible before won't be now so this will not change. What the general public needs to understand is nothing is free. Just because you get a subsidy doesn't mean somebody else is paying for it. The only way to win in the long term is to cut cost of care and make it more affordable. Quick question, have you ever been to a hospital that isn't adding a wing or remodeling? The ACA does nothing to solve cost of care.
  • Tobacco
    I remember reading a while back about Chicago's attempts to make fresh fruits and vegetables more available to under served communities. When asked, most residents questioned said they'd rather go without healthy food than give up their cigarettes.
  • Bail
    Sounds like it won't be long until ANOTHER Obama Bailout. This time it will be an attempt to bail out insurance companies....the alternative being premiums skyrocket (or exactly what majority of smart people predicted long ago) When people aren't paying into the system and young aren't signing up, the entire obamacare plan falls apart at the seams. What a disaster.
  • Um, Joe
    Paying more taxes to help pay for this "mess?" Those of us who have health insurance, and who have had health insurance (for me, since the day i got my first job out of college nearly 30 years ago) have been subsidizing those who haven't had it. When someone goes to the hospital without health insurance and can't pay their bills, which are written off, who do you think pays for that? Think about it. Pay more in taxes or pay the medical bills of the uninsured. Pick one...your choice.
  • You Aint Seen Nothin Yet
    Just wait till we have to pay to use the insurance that they can't pay the preiums on. Thanks for the unaforable health care America, the only people that like it are the insurance companies and the AMericans that think it is all "FREE"
  • yep
    and what about the large number of Americans paying much more in taxes to fund this mess, and with those taxes we are increasing our national debt to pay for it
  • Free Stuff
    PJ- Many of these people are able to buy the cigs and alchohol with their EBT cards/food stamps
  • Agree
    @pj - I would agree with you about the tobacco and alcohol, if people put their health first then health care wouldn't even be an issue. I think the problem people have are those who are younger healthier are subsidizing the older less healthy. Taking away peoples choice is a big issue regardless of the benefits or so called benefits it provides.
  • affordability
    Both of my parents have signed up for coverage on the exchange. I have seen the rates. They are affordable. I question, how many of these people who are "struggling" to pay their premium still have cable television or throw their money away on cigarettes and alcohol. People need to put their priorities straight and their health should be #1.

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