March 31, 2014

When’s that Obamacare deadline? Like it or not, it’s today

Although the Obama administration last week extended the deadline for enrolling in a health coverage plan for those who had started but not completed the process, today is the last day for many of the uninsured to either sign up or face penalties when they pay their federal taxes next year.

The health insurance mandate remains by far the best-known part of the law — 78% of the public is aware of it. And it is the most disliked with only 35% of Americans having a favorable view of the provision (64% unfavorable), according to a Kaiser Health Tracking poll conducted in mid-March. The unpopularity of the mandate far outdistances public disapproval of the overall law itself (46% disapprove, 38% approve).

As of mid-March, the Kaiser survey found that many of the uninsured were unaware of today’s deadline, although most did know that the law imposed penalties for those who failed to obtain insurance.

Even before the deadline extension was announced, there was an array of exemptions for hardships and other reasons.

But the survey also found, that four years after its passage, many uninsured Americans, as well as those who do have coverage, still are unaware of some of its important provisions, or harbor misconceptions about what the law does. 

Among the uninsured, the survey found that about half (52%) said they either did not know that states had the option of expanding their existing Medicaid programs to cover low-income, uninsured adults or answered that the law did not contain such a provision.

When it came to the provision that provides for financial aid to low-and moderate-income Americans to purchase insurance if they weren’t covered by an employer, about four-in-ten (43%) were either unaware of it or said it was not part of the law.

Uninsured knowledge of ACA

What’s in the new health care law? The general public’s knowledge of the law’s provisions is mixed. Seven-in-ten (71%) know that the law extends coverage for dependents up to age 26.  Half or more know about the subsidies to help low- and moderate-income Americans buy insurance, the expansion of Medicaid coverage and the provision prohibiting insurers from denying coverage to those with pre-existing conditions.

But less than half of the general public is aware that the law eliminates out-of-pocket costs for preventive services or closes the so-called Medicare prescription drug “donut hole,” (a coverage gap that occurs after the beneficiary and his or her drug plan have exceeded a certain amount for covered drugs).

The Kaiser survey also found lingering misperceptions among the public about what the law does. Nearly half (46%) incorrectly believes the subsidies to help buy insurance is available to undocumented immigrants while 34% say the law establishes a government panel to make decisions about end-of-life care for those on Medicare.

Uninsured ACA misconceptions

Topics: Health Care

  1. Photo of Bruce Drake

    is a Senior Editor at the Pew Research Center.

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