Uh Oh: 36 Percent of Uninsured Americans "Do Not Plan" to Seek Coverage Through Obamacare

Posted: Oct 03, 2013 10:30 AM
Uh Oh: 36 Percent of Uninsured Americans "Do Not Plan" to Seek Coverage Through Obamacare

We already knew that in spite of its astronomical costs, Obamacare will leave 30 million Americans uninsured, but a new nationwide Gallup survey suggests that millions of uninsured Americans have no intention of signing up for coverage through the law's exchanges. This is potentially a huge deal. Analysis below, but first, the raw numbers:

The pollster's headline focuses on the percentage of this group that will seek coverage, but the real story is just the opposite. Obamacare's funding model relies on younger, healthier Americans overpaying for insurance in order to subsidize older, sicker people. One can make the argument that this form of generational redistribution is fair and moral, but that's not how the law was sold. Everyone -- including the young -- were promised that their coverage would be less expensive, and that if they were satisfied with their existing healthcare arrangement, it wouldn't change at all. Now that these promises are being laid to waste, many people in the "young invincibles" cohort may decide that it isn't worth signing up for the law's expensive coverage -- especially since they must be treated at hospitals if something goes wrong, then sold "insurance" if they develop a pre-existing condition. Paying the IRS-enforced Obamacare mandate tax would be far cheaper than voluntarily shelling out for Obamacare's rising premiums. The poll above indicates that fully one in four uninsured Americans -- many of them relatively young and healthy, presumably -- have already made the decision to forgo coverage and pay the resulting fine/tax. The follow-up question suggests that less than half of this group (48 percent) is explicitly planning to seek out coverage through the exchanges. More than one-third (36 percent) "do not plan" to do so. If those numbers are even close to predictive of how people will act, the data spells real trouble for the law's long-term sustainability. Which bring us to the case of 28-year-old reporter Shelley DuBois. Here's how this reporter for The Tennesseean newspaper describes her situation:

To be clear, I’m not eligible for federal subsidies because my employer, Gannett Co. Inc., offers coverage. But I wanted more, possibly cheaper choices. I’m who Obamacare opponents said wouldn’t sign up and who proponents said would, and I’m ready to subsidize some people with pre-existing conditions in exchange for, say, a fairly affordable MRI scan should I need one.

In other words, she's willing to pay more to help the system work. But when she logged on to enroll in Obamacare, DuBois discovered what her journalistic colleagues at MSNBC and CNN also learned the hard way. Her process was marred with glitches, useless advice, and abject frustration:

11:39 a.m.: No more robots, I was going to find a human being. I drove to the address from the lady on the government help line. Now, I understand that some help centers are up and running throughout the city, but this particular location was a vacant building next to a Holiday Inn Express. At 12:20 p.m., I exited the premises defeated and uninsured. Tried to sign up again via website at 12:48 a.m. No dice.

More than seven hours after her saga began, DeBois declared, "that's a wrap," and waved the white flag for the day. Back to the Gallup figures: How many of the 48 percent of uninsured Americans who are planning to obtain coverage via Obamacare will run into logistical migranes like these, and abandon the effort?