Next Obamacare Challenge: Consumer Confusion on Costs, Penalties

Tuesday, 08 Apr 2014 09:23 AM

By Melissa Clyne

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Now that the Obamacare enrollment deadline has come and gone, the administration is bracing for the next challenge: confounded consumers.

"If there’s been a failing with the Obama administration [communication], it’s the failure to adequately plan for that kind of extensive, repeated interaction with people at the community level," University of Minnesota health politics expert Larry Jacobs told Politico. "Successful outreach doesn’t depend on just one jingle. It’s repeated and unceasing outreach at multiple levels."

More than half of the 40 million uninsured Americans – 6 in 10 – are unaware there was a  March 31 deadline to sign up for coverage, and half of those without coverage said they planned to remain uninsured, according to a March Kaiser Family Foundation poll. According to Politico, those surveyed didn’t realize that if they missed the deadline, there is no opportunity to enroll until November.

"It’s going to be a shock, and we are going to be fielding a lot of calls," Michael Mahoney, a senior vice president with online insurance broker GoHealth, told Politico. "But there’s not much you can do to help."

Americans are also overwhelmingly ignorant of the costs involved – premiums, deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums – and 4 in 10 don’t know there’s financial assistance available, Politico reports.

Ditto for the penalty provision — $95 or 1 percent of a person’s income — increasing to $695 or 2.5 percent of income in 2016. And premiums will likely rise drastically next year.

The Boston Globe’s Jeff Jacoby has characterized Obamacare as "Democrats’ albatross" and opines that the implementation of the president’s signature piece of legislation will only lead to further erosion of the public trust.

"By its proponents’ own empirical benchmarks, Obamacare has been a debacle," Jacoby wrote in a March 27 column. "The rosy promises about no one being forced to change doctors or health plans have been ditched. So has the enticing prospect of $2,500 premium reductions for every family. Instead, the 'Affordable' Care Act in most states is driving up underlying premiums, even doubling them in some parts of the country.

"Four years of Obamacare have shown what arrogance, deception, and top-down control can accomplish. No wonder voters want to see if Republicans can do better."

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