36% of Californians Don’t Know They’re Missing Out on Free Obamacare Money

Monday, November 02, 2015

Covered California kicked off its third year with a recommitment to insuring 2 million people and a pledge to overcome the gross ignorance of the public, 36% of whom don’t know that there is a federal subsidy for signing up.

“This lack of understanding of the subsidy is a striking finding,” Covered California Executive Director Peter Lee said. He contrasted it to the fact that 16% of a random sample―in a survey (pdf) of 2,200 California legal residents between 18 and 64―didn’t realize they will be penalized if they don’t sign up.

Around 90% of the 1.3 million Covered California customers get subsidies. Some 200,000 people have their monthly bill lowered to less than $50. Subsidies are awarded in a sliding scale to people with adjusted net incomes less than four times the federal poverty level. That’s around $47,000 for an individual and $97,000 for a family of four. 

Lee’s “striking” finding is perhaps less striking when one considers what else 36% of people know and don’t know. Only 36% of Americans could name the three branches of government in an Annenberg Public Policy Center survey last year. And only 36% correctly know that blasphemy is not illegal. A survey of people worldwide by Avast, the Internet security company, found that 36% of people don't think it's necessary to back up computer data.

Thirty-six percent of Americans believe in UFOs and don’t believe in saving for retirement, although they may be different people. They may or may not be correct, but the 36% of Europeans who said the sun traveled around the Earth were definitely wrong.

In a head-to-head battle with Donald Trump, 36% of voters surveyed by Rasmussen Reports think Hillary Clinton would be the better president. Trump got 38%. The correctness of that assessment could be made next year.

Covered California is rolling out a campaign to inform uninsured residents about what they’re missing. There will be grants to community groups, a swarm of 18,000 certified insurance agents, 500 staffed storefronts and a stream of promotional activities.

Kevin Drum at Mother Jones suggested it would be much more effective, and a lot cheaper, to simply put up billboard advertisements with a picture of President Obama in medical attire next to a message written large: “Free Obama Money! Get Yours NOW at www.coveredca.com.”

Although Covered California and Obamacare, and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that spawned them, have been self-publicized and in the news for three years—sometimes the subject of hotly contentious debate—10% of state residents surveyed were unfamiliar with them. That’s an improvement from 21% in 2013.

The enrollment period began November 1 and runs through January 31.

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

Covered California Gears Up for 3rd Year of Health Care Signups (by Claudia Buck, Sacramento Bee)

Lots of People Still Aren't Aware That Obama Wants to Give Them Cheap Health Care (by Kevin Drum, Mother Jones)

Obamacare: 36% of California's Uninsured Don't Know the Feds Can Help Pay Their Premiums (by Chad Terhune, Los Angeles Times)

Overview of Main Findings from the Third California Affordable Care Act Consumer Tracking Survey (Covered California) (pdf)

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