According to a new survey, 76 percent of uninsured Americans say they’re ready to buy health coverage—if the price is right.

“If they follow through when the exchanges open, the number of the uninsured will be reduced to about 5 percent of the population—a victory for reform, though possibly a major expense for government,” authors of an Oliver Wyman report say.

The consulting firm says they’ve conducted the first major survey of the consumers most likely to purchase coverage in the under-65 health care exchanges in their first few years of operation. The firm surveyed about 800 currently uninsured individuals about their health status, income and their attitudes toward the health system.

When asked to choose between buying insurance and paying a penalty, 76 percent of those surveyed elected to purchase coverage.

Still, the uninsured are extremely sensitive to price. This means that subsidies will play a major role in keeping consumers in the program. “Interestingly, if falling subsidies drive consumers back to the ranks of the uninsured, the ones who suffer most will likely be not the poor, but the middle income,” the authors report.

Oliver Wyman estimates that there are 51 million uninsured Americans. About 18 million have incomes below 133 percent of the Federal Poverty Level; they would be eligible for Medicaid coverage under ACA and would not be purchasing insurance for themselves. If, as the survey suggests, 76 percent of the remaining 33 million uninsured purchase coverage—either through the exchanges or in the individual market—that would represent 25 million newly insured Americans, reducing the number of the uninsured by about half.

Factor in uninsured people who will enroll in Medicaid (about 11 million in the estimate of the Urban Institute), and the number of the uninsured will be reduced from 51 million to about 15 million, or from 16.6 percent of the population to about 5 percent.

“This suggests that ACA may in fact be able to meet its goal of substantially reducing the number of the uninsured,” the authors write. Still, there are additional implications for health care, which include the uninsured entering the health care market potentially represents a critical mass of consumers that could help push insurers and health care providers toward lower costs and higher quality.

These 25 million newly insured Americans represent 8 percent of the population, a segment more than half the size of the Generation X segment (with 45 million). “They will wield something on the order of $100 billion of purchasing power in the health care arena,” the authors write. “We expect them to demand new products and services unavailable in today’s market, where employers make most health insurance decisions.”

More coverage of the individual mandate from BenefitsPro