Obama’s Big Problem: The Uninsured Don’t Believe in Obamacare

07 March 2014 |

I read about news that the US administration is coming up against a new problem in its attempt to get all citizens enrolled in Obamacare before the cut-off point on March 31. An article on the Obamacare uninsured explains that this time it’s not the opposition or the big corporations raising objections, but uninsured Americans that are throwing a spanner in the works.

According to the article, 56 percent of people that classed themselves as uninsured held a negative view of Obamacare, compared with 22 percent of the uninsured that viewed the program as a good thing. The report from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation conducted in February shows the number of uninsured Americans that dislike the Act is greater now than when enrollment for the program started in October. Uninsured people disapprove of the law more than the general public.

Protection

But isn’t Obamacare expressly designed to benefit these uninsured Americans? That’s the theory, but in practice something different is happening. Despite campaigns that directly targeted the geographic areas of uninsured, low-income families, the unfavorable opinion of Obamacare still managed to surface in these groups that could benefit from non-cost or heavily subsidized health insurance.

Why are the uninsured so skeptical of the law? One important reason is a widespread lack of knowledge about Obamacare among the groups of people it could help the most. Over 25 percent of the uninsured citizens of America told pollsters that they knew nothing at all about the Health Insurance Marketplace. Thirty-seven percent said they only knew a little. More worryingly, 60 percent of the uninsured polled said they didn’t know that March 31 is the final day to get health coverage before financial penalties kick in.

In addition, there are psychological reasons at play. An uninsured American is often an American not suffering from any major illness or health complaint. They don’t need to buy prescription drugs on a regular basis, and they don’t often visit the doctor because they feel healthy and strong. This group of uninsured citizens doesn’t believe that health insurance represents good value for money. Why should I pay hundreds of dollars a month, they say, for something I probably won’t need? And why is the government forcing me to spend money on insurance I don’t want?

That the healthy think they are invincible and don’t need to buy insurance is nothing new. But the attitude is particularly short-sighted when it comes to health insurance in the United States, where the cost of medical care is high.

The Obama administration is ramping up efforts to get as many of these uninsured doubters signed up as possible. Obama is personally promoting the Act, and senior members of the administration regularly appear on TV extolling the virtues of using the Health Insurance Exchanges to find a good deal on health insurance. However, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation poll, only 15 percent of uninsured Americans said they had been contacted by one of the organizations like Enroll America, or government-linked groups building awareness of the Affordable Care Act.

US citizens are not the only ones “opting out” of insurance plans designed to protect their interests and bank balance. Travelers to the US and non-citizens living or working in the country on a temporary basis are also deciding to go without any form of health protection. And the travelers most likely to skip visitors health insurance are the ones that see themselves as invincible. The findings in the article only confirm what we have known for a long time – high-risk, vulnerable travelers that suffer, or have suffered from, health conditions or injuries purchase visitor insurance. Healthy travelers more often don’t consider visitor insurance at all. They simply don’t believe they need it.

But accidents and illness can strike without prior warning. Just because a traveler has no previous experience of an emergency room doesn’t mean that can’t suffer an accident on the road when they are visiting family in the States. Lack of knowledge also affects visitors to the United States as it does the uninsured citizens of America missing out on Obamacare. Many people are unaware of the high cost of health insurance in the US and also the availability of low-cost visitor insurance plans.  It may be difficult for the US administration to sign-up the uninsured doubters to the Affordable Healthcare Act, and it may be tough for insurers to target those visitors to the US that still travel without health coverage, but the effort is worth it – for the sake of individuals and society as a whole.