A few consumers still have not heard of ObamaCare

Despite launching the Federal and state health insurance exchanges on October 1, 2013, the percentage of consumers who said they know at least something about the Affordable Care Act (ACA or “ObamaCare”) was only slightly higher in December of 2013 than it was in December of 2012 (68% vs. 61% in Q4 2012). Five percent of consumers surveyed in Q4 2013 still said they have not heard of ACA or ObamaCare (9% had not heard of it in 2012).

Overall image of ACA is neutral

Virtually unchanged for the past 12 months, the overall perception of ACA remains neutral with 46% saying it will have a very positive (13%) or somewhat positive (33%) impact, 44% saying it will have a somewhat negative (21%) or very negative (23%) impact and 10% saying it will have no impact. However, perceptions of health care exchanges remain more positive with 40% saying exchanges will positively impact the way they personally buy health insurance, 41% saying exchanges will have no impact and only 19% saying exchanges will have a negative impact on their personal insurance purchases.

Most consumers just “kicked the tires” of exchanges

Through February 7, 2014, 35% of consumers age 18 to 64 said they tried accessing the Federal (www.healthcare.gov) or state health insurance exchange or spoke with a broker or navigator about the exchange. More than one-quarter (26%) tried accessing the state or Federal website themselves. Of those who remembered when they first access the website, 28% were not able to create an account or do anything. 61% were able to create an account and 46% made it so far as to verifying their identity. Just under 4% (3.7%) of consumers surveyed between 18 and 64 said they selected a health insurance plan on the state or Federal exchange and 1% of them had actually paid their first month’s premium by February 7th.

Exchange Activity through February 2014

Health insurance exchange / marketplace activity between October 1, 2013 and February 7, 2014

Initial experience was split

One-third of consumers who visited a Federal or state health insurance marketplace rated their experience an 8, 9 or 10 while 34% rated it a 0, 1, 2, 3 or 4 on a 10-pt scale where “10” means the “best possible experience” and “1” means “the worst possible experience.” In addition, 19% said the variety of plans was much better than expected and 12% said they were somewhat better than expected, while 26% said they were somewhat worse and 16% said they were much worse than expected.

Some agreement about prices being higher

Only 22% of consumers who visited a state or Federal marketplace indicated plan premiums were much less expensive (9%) or somewhat less expensive (13%) than they previously paid for health insurance. Almost one-quarter (24%) said plan prices in the marketplaces were much more expensive than what they previously paid and 27% said they were somewhat more expensive, leaving just 27% who said prices were about the same.

Navigators were not as successful as agents in enrolling consumers

Navigators did not have a major impact on plan selection. Only 5% of eligible consumers spoke with a navigator and less than half those who did speak to a navigator found health insurance coverage. In comparison, brokers were more successful. Of the 6% of consumers who talked with a broker or agent, 77% said they were able to successfully select insurance coverage.

Additional exchange activity expected to be modest

Of those 18 to 64-year-olds who have not yet visited the state or Federal marketplace, only 17% said they intend to do so before the March 31st deadline. Another 23% are unsure whether they will do so.