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Thumbs down: Most uninsured have not checked health exchanges

Nov. 13, 2013 @ 06:51 AM

The highly publicized problems with the health exchange websites certainly have not helped.

But a recent survey shows that just getting the attention of the nation’s uninsured may take much more than a function­ing online portal.

About 47 million Americans were without health insurance in 2012, about 18 percent of the non-elderly popula­tion. Most of those over 65 are covered by Medicare, and about 62 percent of the non-elderly have private insurance mostly through their employers. About 21 percent of the non-elderly have pub­lic insurance, mostly the very poor through Medicaid.

So, who is left?

Those without insurance are almost all adults, about 85 percent, because many states have expanded insurance options for children. Three-fourths have annual household incomes of less than $40,000, and almost half under $20,000, according to the Henry Kaiser Foundation.

Some can gain coverage through the expansion of Medicaid that is encouraged under Obamacare and in the works in many states, including West Virginia. But so far the interest level is low.

A Gallup Poll shows this week that only 18 percent of uninsured Americans have attempted to visit one of the health exchange sites. Even for those who say they plan to use the exchanges to get insurance, only 22 percent have been to a site.

The technical problems have likely scared some away, but the survey also found little general aware­ness. Only about three in 10 uninsured respondents said they were somewhat or very familiar with the excha nges .

Federal officials promise to have some enrollment figures in the next week or so, but the numbers are expected to be very low. It is going to take some fresh approaches beyond the websites to increase enroll­ment.

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