Half of Uninsured Americans Will Be Very Surprised by Obamacare Fine

With the Sunday enrollment deadline looming, and despite a strong public relations campaign by the Obama administration, most uninsured Americans know nothing about the upcoming deadline and about half aren’t expecting a fine for missing it, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll released Thursday.

“The majority (57 percent) of the uninsured say they don’t know the deadline and small shares incorrectly believe the deadline is some other time in 2016 (16 percent) or that it has already passed (12 percent),” the Kaiser poll says. “Additionally, only 1 percent correctly name the 2016 fine amount of $695 per person or 2.5% of household income.”

The Healthcare.gov website is displayed on a laptop computer arranged for a photograph in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, Nov. 4, 2013. The race to construct an online insurance exchange by Oct. 1 spurred the Obama administration to use an expedited bidding system that limited its choice of a builder to just four companies, including CGI Group Inc. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

More than half of uninsured either say they won’t have to pay a fine or don’t know they will have to pay a fine if they miss the deadline for signing up for an Obamacare-approved health insurance plan by Jan. 31.

“Although they largely do not know the fine amount, nearly half (47 percent) of the uninsured anticipate that they will have to pay a fine for not having health insurance in 2015. An identical share (47 percent) say that they do not think they will have to pay a fine and the remaining 6 percent say they don’t know,” the Kaiser poll says. “Some uninsured may in fact be exempt from the fine because of hardship exemptions available under the law.”

More than 70 percent of uninsured do not know if they qualify for either Medicaid or government subsidies to buy private plans. However, out of that group, about two-thirds aren’t trying to find out.

“In terms of enrollment engagement and efforts to get coverage, most of the uninsured say they have not been contacted about signing up for coverage (67 percent) or that they have not tried to get more information on their own (57 percent),” the poll says. “More specifically, most uninsured say they have not taken steps to figure out if they are eligible for the two main coverage expansions under the ACA — Medicaid and financial assistance to purchase health insurance through the healthcare marketplaces.”

The Department of Health and Human Services has promoted the Jan. 31 deadline, while President Barack Obama did a round of interviews with local newscasts in major media markets Wednesday.