Poll: Nearly 60% of Exchange Enrollees Were Uninsured

Almost six in 10 people who bought health insurance through the Affordable Care Act’s online exchanges had been uninsured just before they went shopping for a health plan, according to a new survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The finding offers another glimpse at whether the 2010 law achieved its main goal: to reduce the number of uninsured people in the U.S., which was around 45 million before the law’s passage. Opponents of the law have questioned whether some of the 8 million people who picked plans on the exchanges were simply forced from existing plans that didn’t meet the law’s tougher requirements.

Previous research has produced a divergent picture of how many uninsured have gained coverage under the law.McKinsey found in its April consumer survey that around 26% of people enrolling in coverage were previously uninsured. And Rand Corp. says its research suggests the proportion was more like one in three.

Meanwhile, Gallup poll found the rate of people without health insurance fell from an all-time high of 18% in the fourth quarter of last year to 13.4% in April.

HHS officials have most recently said that as many as 87% of the approximately 5 million people who applied through federally run exchanges for tax credits toward the cost of premiums may have been uninsured, though they have also said those numbers aren’t firm.

Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health policy think-tank that conducts monthly tracking polls on the health law, surveyed 742 adults who buy their own insurance. The poll, conducted from April 3 through May 11, has a margin of error of 5 percentage points.

Other parts of the poll suggest that most of the people who enrolled in new plans under the law consider themselves to be in excellent or good health — though among another group who had kept their old policies under a short-term reprieve, a higher proportion said the same.

Just over half of the respondents with plans that were bought under the law say they consider them to be excellent or good value. That figure was slightly higher among people who had been allowed to keep their old policies, and higher again among people who have coverage through their employer, who typically pays most of their premiums.

The satisfaction rates among people who bought through the exchanges could be crucial in determining how likely consumers are to stick with their 2014 choices when it comes time to re-enroll this fall. As we reported this morning, most of the biggest carriers want to raise their premiums for next year, and smaller insurers and some newcomers are making an aggressive bid for their customers by trying to undercut them.

By LOUISE RADNOFSKY  Washington Wire