A large chunk of the American population doesn’t know when the open enrollment period is to purchase healthcare insurance, according to a recent small study by insuranceQuotes. And recent political moves have contributed to confusion among Americans.
The study found 41 percent of Americans didn’t know when the enrollment period is, and 14 percent said they thought the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, “was cancelled.”
The lack of knowledge and misinformation underscores the disconnect between the healthcare system and everyday consumers. It also reveals that confusion over current healthcare laws may be deepened by the ongoing debate and policy changes from the Trump administration.
“In addition to low health literacy, one of the reasons Americans are confused about the ACA and open enrollment is because of efforts by politicians to undermine the ACA,” Nicole Rochester, physician and health care navigation expert, said in a statement.
The survey measured responses from 1,005 people, 38 percent of whom were unaware the ACA was still in effect. Americans were split on how they felt about the healthcare law after the 2016 election; 24 percent said they viewed the ACA less positively after the election, while 18 percent viewed it more favorably.
Still, the healthcare law has remained popular as a result of some of its basic provisions, including protections for those with pre-existing conditions.
Less than a quarter of respondents believed that Trump will make healthcare better, compared to 39 percent who believed he would make it worse. More respondents also believed Republicans were more responsible for problems with the U.S. healthcare system (35 percent), compared to Democrats (29 percent).
Misinformation may also be apparent among Americans because the Trump administration has reduced funding on marketing about enrollment and help for consumers to navigate the healthcare exchanges on the individual market.
“Due to decreased funding for both advertising and insurance 'navigators' as well as the rhetoric on TV that ‘the ACA is dead,’ many Americans mistakenly believe that they can no longer purchase health insurance through the marketplace,” Rochester said.
The Trump administration is currently facing a lawsuit that alleges its attempts to undermine the ACA are illegal.
Republicans also effectively ended one part of the ACA, when President Trump signed into the law the tax bill that essentially repealed the individual mandate by ensuring the penalty for not having insurance would be $0 starting in 2019.
That policy contributed to premium increases of about 16 percent in 2019, according to a recent analysis from Kaiser Family Foundation.
“This action did not end the ACA, not even its mandate to purchase health insurance, the ‘individual shared responsibility provision,’" Etienne Deffarges, a health IT entrepreneur and the author, said in a statement. “Yet, on Dec. 26, 2017, Trump tweeted: 'Based on the fact that the very unfair and unpopular Individual Mandate has been terminated as part of our Tax Cut Bill, which essentially Repeals (over time) Obama Care, the Democrats & Republicans will eventually come together and develop a great new HealthCare plan.'”
“This statement is one of many made by Trump and Republicans that likely have confused a lot of people regarding the actual status of the ACA,” he added.
The open enrollment period for the ACA healthcare marketplace is from Nov. 1 through Dec. 15, 2018.