Commonwealth Fund: 57 Percent of People Potentially Eligible for Obamacare Coverage Have Still Not Visited Exchange

A few days ago, the pro-Obamacare Commonwealth Fund released a report, Gaining Ground, cheerleading the results of Obamacare so far. Even the New York Times was a little guarded in its reception of the report, opining:

Most of the newly insured people had no trouble finding a primary care doctor, and most waited less than two weeks for an appointment. Whether that will hold true when millions more patients flood into the market remains to be seen.

That’s for sure. What the Commonwealth Fund report really confirms is what this blog has maintained for a long while: Obamacare exchanges attracted people in immediate need of medical care. 60 percent of those who enrolled have seen a doctor, been to a hospital, or filled a prescription. On the other hand, 57 percent of people potentially eligible for Obamacare coverage have still not even visited a health-insurance online exchange (Exhibit 6). And that figure is for the period starting April 1, when the full-court press to enroll everybody was at its fiercest.

Of those who visited an exchange during open enrollment, only half signed up for coverage. And 41 percent of them dropped their previous coverage to get Obamacare coverage! (Even those who were previously uninsured might have been uninsured for only a short time, waiting to sign up for Obamacare.) To be sure, the Commonwealth Fund reported that the previously insured who gained coverage under Obamacare said they were “better off”. Who would not report that they were better off if they were able to drop insurance for which they paid themselves, and get coverage paid mostly by taxpayers? On the other hand, 46 percent of Obamacare enrollees reported that not all the doctors they wanted to see were in network (Exhibit 14).

One benefit of the Commonwealth Survey is that it confirms our skepticism of the drop in uninsured rate reported by the Gallup-Healthways poll, which claims that the uninsured rate has dropped to 13.4 percent. The Commonwealth Fund reports an uninsured rate of 15 percent for 19 through 34-year olds. If Obamacare champions could agree on the uninsured rate, we would be more likely to accept claims of a massive reduction in uninsured due to Obamacare.

Overall, we don’t see much in this report to overturn other evidence that even Obamacare beneficiaries are disappointed in Obamacare.

Comments (13)

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  1. Thomas says:

    “And 41 percent of them dropped their previous coverage to get Obamacare coverage!”

    Can you blame them? Many people went from paying 100% of the cost for insurance to receiving heavily subsidized insurance. Anyone with sense would leave their current coverage for subsidized coverage if there weren’t a large difference in the plans.

    • James M. says:

      It seems like the only people that are signing up for coverage are people that are better off with ObamaCare. That is the only incentive, is if ObamaCare is a cheaper alternative than what was covered before. I do believe that is the minority however.

      • dennisbyron says:

        Perhaps some insurance actuary type could weigh in on this subject: Can insurance system work if 60% of the people who sign up for it use it?

        • Ken Kelly says:

          Sure – if the actuaries correctly predicted dollar amount of the claims that they are paying out & thereby properly priced their policies.

  2. Walter Q. says:

    “The Commonwealth Fund reports an uninsured rate of 15 percent for 19 through 34-year olds.”

    Well it is likely that younger demographics will have higher uninsured rates because they tend to be more risk taking and in good health. Older demographics probably see smaller uninsured rates, so when compared overall, the uninsured rate probably averages out to be around 13%.

  3. Buddy says:

    “57 percent of people potentially eligible for Obamacare coverage have still not even visited a health-insurance online exchange”

    Yeah probably due to expensive premiums and little need for immediate health coverage. Obamacare is failing the US, and many people who are eligible are not falling for it.

  4. Matthew says:

    Well another thing is when half the people that are eligible do not have doctors in the ObamaCare network, they won’t sign up. Many people get comfortable with a doctor and do not want to change because of their insurance plan. They find other ways than going to the exchanges.

  5. Bubba says:

    And how is that a problem? If more than half the people who are eligible for public assistance have not bothered to join, that’s good news. That suggests there are a lot of self-reliant people out there who are too embarrassed to gorge at the public trough.

  6. Phill S says:

    These are horribly embarrassing numbers for the ACA advocates. That so few eligible people even looked at eh online exchanges highlights just how unpopular this law is!

    • dennisbyron says:

      Be careful drawing that conclusion. I think that that statistic likely just confirms how hard the web site was to use. We proved in Massachusetts with RomneyCare that free stuff — whether it be free insurance or free beer — is popular. The problem in Massachusetts came later when the RomneyCare insurance card was not accepted by many doctors (the doctors chose not to be in the Romneycare networks is a better way of looking at it) and of course Medicaid continued to be accepted by fewer and fewer providers. Therefore, thousands reverted to the free care pool. Unfortunately the money in the free care pool was supposed to pay for the RomneyCare insurance. Premiums went up out of sight. The state budget went up (via 20% increases in income and sales taxes) and squeezed out all other spending. ER usage continued to rise. And in the end, RomneyCare was repealed and Massachusetts adopted Soviet-era-like price controls.

  7. Ken Kelly says:

    I don’t understand the point you are trying to make by comparing the Gallup 13.4% estimate of uninsured 18 year-olds and older to the Commonwealth 15% estimate of uninsured 19-64 year-olds (I take the “19-34” to be a typo: that figure is 18%).

    Using 318M for the US pop. and demographic breakdowns from US Census Quick facts, and assuming about 2% uninsured for 65+:

    23.3% less than 19 (close enough)
    14.1% over 64

    so… 13.4% * (100% – 23.3%) * 318M = 32.7M
    and… 15.0% * (100% – 37.4&) * 318M = 29.9M
    and… 2% * 14.1% * 318M = 0.9M.

    I’d say 30.8M is easily close enough to 32.7M to inspire confidence in both polls! What were you expecting?

  8. Big Truck Joe says:

    So this was year 1 data on Obamacare- not a resounding success to say the least. One would surmise that those most in need of insurance would have signed up immediately. If so, that doesn’t bode well for future Obamacare enrollment. Unless dropped by their current employer sponsored insurance , there won’t be waves of new enrollees in the years to come. Obamacare just ain’t gonna work.

    • Ken Kelly says:

      We’ll know soon enough. The CBO accurately predicted this year’s drop in the number of uninsured, and next year they predict a further drop of 7M and then another 7M by 2017. If next year’s mark is also hit, I’d call Obamacare a success – at least if judged strictly on it’s own terms. Obviously, it can still seen be as a failure compared to alternative approaches, or even the pre-ACA status quo, depending on ones philosophical policy views.