Obamacare: how many previously uninsured?

If we have an inkling of how many Obamacare exchange enrollees were previously uninsured, The latest McKinsey report gives some insight.  Based on its latest online survey, a paltry one-quarter of those signing up were originally uninsured.  This conclusion is based on a sample of almost 3,000 people surveyed in April 2014 who were eligible for a federally qualified health plan in the individual market both on and off Obamacare’s state and federal health exchanges.

Despite the briefing’s small sample size and a methodology that cannot be directly compared to the exchange population, its main objective was to analyze consumer behavior when shopping for coverage in the individual market as well as awareness of the federal health law’s subsidized health plans and penalties.

When Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina discussed its Obamacare policyholder mix last Friday, representatives did mention that 70% of exchange enrollees were not BCBS policyholders in 2013. Of course, that figure could mean lots of different things other than those who were uninsured signing up for the first time or individuals having difficulty maintaining coverage due to pre-existing health conditions; it could also come from those who now work part-time and no longer rely on employer-sponsored insurance, were dumped off their group coverage due to Obamacare’s costly insurance mandates, or are transitioning between jobs.

The Weekly Standard further explains:

It is far from clear that the 8 million or so enrollees in Obamacare’s exchange plans are happy to be there. Some were forced into these exchanges because their plans were canceled, and many others signed up for coverage despite the fact that they find their options unattractive. The truth is that Obamacare is pushing Americans into accepting its bureaucratic constraints through taxes and regulations, including the tax on remaining uninsured.

We should not be surprised that this kind of pressure can push people into signing up. But we should also not be surprised that it offends many Americans who resent being shoved into a government-restricted marketplace. And it seems likely that many more families will find themselves facing displacement, uncertainty, and unattractive options as many small businesses lose their pre-Obamacare coverage this fall and are forced to either spend more or end their employee coverage.

Katherine Restrepo / Director Of Healthcare Policy

Katherine Restrepo is the Director of Healthcare policy at the John Locke Foundation. Before joining the John Locke Foundation, she interned at the Cato Institute under the di...

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