Tags: uninsured | young | gallup | fine

Gallup Poll: Quarter of Uninsured Plan to Stay that Way

Image: Gallup Poll: Quarter of Uninsured Plan to Stay that Way

Wednesday, 04 Dec 2013 11:19 AM

By Melanie Batley

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Over a quarter of uninsured Americans say they will ignore the Obamacare mandate to purchase health insurance and are willing to pay the government fine imposed for remaining uninsured, a new poll has found.

According to a Gallup survey conducted Nov. 20-Dec. 2, 63 percent of the uninsured say they are likely to purchase insurance, but 28 percent said they are more likely to pay the fine. The findings have been broadly consistent since September, even as the first deadline of Dec. 23 looms for purchasing insurance.

The survey of 655 adults also shows that Republicans are more likely to avoid signing up for Obamacare than Democrats. Forty-five percent of Republicans say they will likely pay the fine compared to 15 percent of Democrats. Meanwhile, 80 percent of uninsured Democrats say they will purchase insurance compared to 46 percent of Republicans.

"Given that Democrats widely endorse the healthcare law and Republicans widely oppose it, this relationship suggests uninsured Americans' personal opinions on the law may have as much to do with their decision to get insurance as their current health or income situation," wrote Jeffrey Jones, the Gallup survey's author.

"For many uninsured Americans, particularly Republicans, the decision to pay the fine could be a form of protest against the law."

Gallup estimates that 17 percent of U.S. adults are currently uninsured. When paired with the recent survey of those who plan to remain uninsured, the polling organization estimates that a minimum of 5 percent of all adults will remain uninsured. despite the Obama administration's aim of universal coverage.

A key premise of the law's success in achieving affordable health coverage was the participation of young, healthy consumers to help subsidize premium costs for the rest of those participating in healthcare program. But early polling figures indicate the administration is falling far short of its goal of getting the young demographic to enroll in Obamacare.

According to Fox News, experts say the healthcare program needs 40 percent of all enrollees to be between 18- and 34-years-old to succeed. The administration has not released information on how many in that age group have actually enrolled, but figures from six states that are tracking sign-ups show only 28 percent of them are young adults. But that figure applied to only those six states, and not the nation as a whole.

But a recent CNN poll also indicated that there are fewer young Obamacare enrollees than the government initially had projected.

The polls highlight the challenges the Obama administration faces in convincing young people to sign up and could explain why President Barack Obama has stepped up efforts to convince them to participate.

On Wednesday, the president was scheduled to address a gathering of 160 youth activists at the White House Young Summit to promote insurance enrollment, The Hill reported.

"The summit is an opportunity to explain the benefits of the health law and tools for enrollment to key young influencers who have a strong reach among 18-35 year olds," a White House official said.

He will also visit American University Thursday, where he plans to promote the Affordable Care Act during a town hall-like forum.

But despite his efforts, experts point out that because the young visit doctors much more infrequently than the average population, many will likely still choose not to enroll because it simply doesn't pay to do so.

"Most of them have zero health costs. In fact, the median healthcare spending for this group is exactly zero," economist Douglas Holtz-Eakin, former head of the Congressional Budget Office, told Fox News.

"Literally if they do the arithmetic, 80-85 percent will just say no . . . pay the penalty and stay out of the Affordable Care Act. There's a long tradition of the young invincible not buying insurance.

Those who did buy insurance in polling that we've looked at said that if their premiums went up as much as 30 percent, they'd drop it."

Many of the young who previously paid for low-priced, catastrophic-care policies, could also be priced out of the market since the Affordable Care Act asks them to buy better and more expensive policies.

"If the age group doesn't sign up at all then the so-called exchanges are filled with very high-cost patients and the government will have to subsidize them extensively," Holtz-Eakin said. "We'll end up with a government run program for very sick people, something we've already had."

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