Uninsureds say exchanges are problematic

Although the administration has been adamant the exchanges under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act are working better now a few months in, consumers are telling a different story.

Fifty-nine percent of uninsured Americans reported having a negative experience with the new health exchanges in December, according to the latest Gallup numbers. Comparatively, 39 percent said they had a positive experience.

Only 7 percent reported a “very positive” experience, while 29 percent had a “very negative” experience.

Those numbers are only a slight improvement from October and November, when the exchanges were especially plagued with technical problems.

Gallup figures are based on Dec. 1-29 tracking interviews with more than 1,500 uninsured Americans, including roughly 450 who have visited an exchange website.

Among those uninsured Americans who have visited an exchange, 24 percent say they went to a federal exchange, 20 percent to a state exchange, 17 percent to both, and 37 percent are unsure.

Gallup also found only 26 percent of uninsured Americans had visited an exchange, up 6 percent since November. 

Researchers noted, though, that number may be skewed if proportionately more visited near the end of the month to meet the deadline for having insurance coverage effective Jan. 1.

Still, that number is not ideal.

A prior Gallup poll found that less than half of uninsured Americans who plan to get insurance say they will do so through an exchange, perhaps opting instead to take an employer-sponsored plan or get covered on a family member’s plan. Additionally, roughly 30 percent of uninsured Americans say they are more likely to forego insurance and pay the penalty than to sign up for insurance.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said earlier this week that 2.1 million people had enrolled in insurance through the exchanges.

Americans still have until March to enroll in coverage and not pay a penalty.

Overall, researchers say that, although the administration said the exchanges’ major technical problems are resolved, the poll indicates otherwise.

“The update suggests the website fixes have not dramatically improved the customer experience for uninsured Americans seeking health insurance to comply with requirements of the Affordable Care Act,” Gallup researchers noted.

“The fact that most uninsured Americans who have visited the exchanges report a negative experience is problematic, particularly given the Obama administration's efforts to improve the federal sites,” they concluded. “If uninsured Americans continue to have bad experiences with the exchanges, it could hinder the Obama administration’s goal to insure as many Americans as possible.”

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