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Obamacare Enrollment Is About to Open Again, and Not Many Know It

Latest Kaiser poll shows obstacle to getting more Americans on health exchanges.

Only about 15 per­cent of un­in­sured Amer­ic­ans—and 17 per­cent of the gen­er­al pub­lic—know when open en­roll­ment be­gins, des­pite health in­sur­ance mar­ket­places kick­ing off the third open sea­son this Sunday, ac­cord­ing to the Oc­to­ber Kais­er Health Track­ing Poll.

Earli­er this month, the Health and Hu­man Ser­vices De­part­ment an­nounced that it an­ti­cip­ated 10 mil­lion Amer­ic­ans will likely have cov­er­age and pay their premi­ums by the end of 2016—a mod­est es­tim­ate that in­cluded 2.8 to 3.9 mil­lion un­in­sured in­di­vidu­als. HHS noted those without in­sur­ancemay be harder to reach since it’s the third go-around for open en­roll­ment, and the Kais­er Fam­ily Found­a­tion poll sheds light on just how dif­fi­cult the task may be.

Out of those who are un­in­sured, roughly 2 in 10 have been con­tac­ted about the Af­ford­able Care Act in the past six months. About 51 per­cent of those without health in­sur­ance haven’t had cov­er­age for at least two years. Yet those sur­veyed in­dic­ated a will­ing­ness to sign up for cov­er­age; al­most half, when asked if they plan to get in­sur­ance in the next few months, said yes, ac­cord­ing to the poll, which in­ter­viewed 1,203 adults from Oct. 14-20.

HHS has broken down the demo­graph­ics of the 10.5 mil­lion who are un­in­sured yet could likely be eli­gible to hop on a health ex­change. Al­most 8 in 10 could qual­i­fy for fin­an­cial as­sist­ance. Al­most half are the “young in­vin­cibles” ages 18 to 34. About 19 per­cent are His­pan­ic, 14 per­cent are black, and 2 per­cent are Asi­an. And nearly 40 per­cent live on in­comes between $30,000 to $60,000 for a fam­ily of four.

In mid-Oc­to­ber, HHS out­lined its game plan to tar­get en­rollees us­ing loc­al­ized and di­git­al cam­paigns in both Eng­lish and Span­ish while also work­ing with non­profits, health care pro­viders, busi­nesses and more.

Health­, the fed­er­al ex­change ser­vi­cing 38 states, opened for win­dow-shop­ping Sunday, al­low­ing po­ten­tial con­sumers to com­pare the fin­an­cial de­tails of vari­ous health plans. But when the mar­ket­places first opened for en­roll­ment in 2013, Health­ and some state ex­changes came un­der fire for tech­no­lo­gic­al glitches and a bumbled rol­lout that was frus­trat­ing for health in­sur­ance shop­pers.

In a brief­ing with re­port­ers Fri­day, Kev­in Couni­han—the Health­ CEO—said the sys­tem is stable and the fo­cus now is on per­son­al­iz­ing the con­sumer ex­per­i­ence and provid­ing more tools to help en­rollees choose the right plan. Tools al­low­ing con­sumers to search health plans for a spe­cif­ic doc­tor and for a spe­cif­ic drug are “com­ing soon,” and Cen­ters for Medi­care and Medi­caid Ser­vices of­fi­cials wouldn’t give a con­crete timetable for their launch.

“Are we go­ing to have bumps in this open en­roll­ment? You bet,” Couni­han said. “Are they go­ing to be per­man­ent and long-last­ing? No. Are we go­ing to be able to identi­fy them quickly? You bet. Are we go­ing to be able to fix them fast? Ab­so­lutely.”

(Image via txking / )