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Understanding Exchanges Still a Struggle for Consumers

Source: http://www.benefitspro.com

By Kathryn Mayer

Yet another poll is out underscoring one of the main concerns over health reform — that consumers just don’t get it.

According to this survey, released Thursday by InsuranceQuotes.com, 90 percent of Americans don’t know when the new health insurance exchanges will open.

A major component of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the new health insurance exchanges will be available for online and telephone enrollments beginning Oct. 1. Coverage begins on Jan. 1, 2014. Exchanges are intended to give families and small-business owners accurate information to make apples-to-apples comparisons of private insurance plans and get financial help to make coverage more affordable if they’re eligible.

The exchanges are a core component of the individual mandate that will require all Americans to obtain health insurance or pay a fine. As a result, tens of millions of previously uninsured Americans are expected to gain access to health insurance.

The survey of roughly 1,000 U.S. adults found that 40 percent expect health reform to have a major effect on their lives, while 39 percent think the law will have a minor effect and 19 percent expect no effect.

The survey found that Americans were more knowledgeable about other aspects of health reform. For instance, 73 percent correctly answered that health plans cannot deny coverage based on preexisting health conditions. And 66 percent accurately said that health plans must extend coverage to dependent children up to age 26. Those two provisions have been among the most popular.

Still, insurance experts say having only some knowledge isn’t enough.

“A lot of people need to study up on health care reform and what it means to them,” said Laura Adams, senior insurance analyst at InsuranceQuotes.com. “We found a very inconsistent understanding of the Affordable Care Act, and we fear that many people will miss key deadlines and benefits because they don’t adequately understand the new law.”

Uninformed consumers who are unaware of what the exchanges do and what health reform means for them has been a huge hurdle of PPACA. It’s something that government officials are working to alleviate. In January, The Department of Health and Human Services relaunched healthcare.gov, a website aimed at informing consumers about the health reform law while giving them a place to purchase insurance.

In total, 39 percent of Americans said they are somewhat knowledgeable about PPACA, 28 percent said they aren’t too knowledgeable, 21 percent said they aren’t at all knowledgeable and only 10 percent said they are very knowledgeable.

The survey was conducted March 7-10 by telephone by Princeton Survey Research Associates International.