March 31, 2014 means nothing to more than half of Americans.
According to a new report from Bankrate.com, roughly 55% of Americans still don’t know the deadline to sign up for health insurance and qualify for subsidies under the Affordable Care Act. Another 62% believe President Obama will push the deadline back to a later date.
All of the confusion, misinformation and misconceptions mean producers can expect another last-minute rush to enroll in health insurance plans through the state and federal exchanges.
“People don’t follow through. I thought we’d be done this month, but I choose to wonder now,” said Steven Hurd, president of Pacific Insurance Brokers in San Diego. “I think we’re going to continue to be busy long past January, February, and all the way into March.”
Hurd also mentioned that in the wake of last year’s multiple deadline extensions, several of his clients aren’t taking the administration at its word regarding March deadline. Bankrate.com insurance analyst Doug Whiteman echoed those concerns.
“A majority of Americans aren’t taking this deadline seriously. 62% believe it will be pushed to a later date,” Whiteman told Insurance Business. “I think it certainly doesn’t help that the administration was switching so many deadlines earlier, particularly at the end of the year. It was hard for consumers and the insurance industry to keep up with all of that.”
Whiteman mentioned that young people, those between 18 and 29, were the most likely to think the government would push back the deadline—something that worries him.
“They’re the least likely to have health insurance, and they’re also the age group least informed about the deadline. I think that’s really what concerned us the most about our findings,” he said. The success of the ACA really depends on getting younger, healthier Americans to sign up and balance out the insurance pool. If we don’t, it could cause rates to go up for everyone.”
Independent agents and brokers have a role to play in making sure young people—as well as the general public—are informed about the March deadline, Whiteman said. He suggested agents continue to make themselves available to potential clients, as well as post flyers and reach out to their respective communities.
As to combatting the last-minute rush? While noting that “there are always going to people who will wait until the last minute,” Whiteman said producers and their clients could save some time in the Obamacare discussion by utilizing Bankrate.com’s new subsidy calculator.
“[The calculator] helps people see what their subsidies would be without having to go through the site,” he said. “It could help create an incentive for people to sign up for insurance and meet the deadline.”
The fact that consumers will not be able to sign up for healthcare through exchanges again until 2015’s open enrollment period is also a powerful motivator, Whiteman noted.