Affordable Care Act
3:32 pm
Tue November 5, 2013

Study says uninsured Montanans likely to buy plans through Obamacare

A screenshot from the Affordable Care Act insurance website, healthcare.gov.

Few uninsured Montanans go without coverage voluntarily, says a new report released Monday by the University of Montana Bureau of Business and Economic Research.

“That means that had insurance been available, they would have taken it,” said the bureau’s Interim Health Care Research Director, Paul Polzin.

The study comes from a phone survey conducted between mid-September, 2012 and the end of February, 2013. It found about 20 percent of the state’s population, or 195,000 people, were uninsured. Slightly more than three quarters of those described themselves as involuntarily uninsured. Polzin said reasons for not having insurance varied, but many cited low-wage jobs and premiums that were too expensive.

Polzin said the data suggests many of these Montanans will sign up for insurance through the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, which provides subsidies for low-income Americans.

However, Polzin said the survey was conducted too early to find out if the uninsured have been deterred by technical problems plaguing the ACA’s website.

The woes facing the Obamacare website is complicating the work of ACA Navigators, workers funded through federal grants whose job it is to help people get signed up for insurance on the exchange.

Three organizations have received grants to employ navigators, The Montana Primary Care Association, the Montana Health Network and Planned Parenthood of Montana.

"It would have been so much nicer if people could have made their way through very elegantly and simply and there's just been so much frustration and confusion around it,” said Montana Primary Care Association Executive Director Bob Marsalli. “It does make our work a little more difficult."

Marsalli said navigators are putting more emphasis than intended on helping people sign up for ACA insurance plans through paper applications or over the the phone.

The Obama Administration expects healthcare.gov to be fully functioning by the end of November. In the meantime, Marsalli said navigators are trying to keep relationships with people, telling them to keep trying to enroll.

The deadline to sign up for Obamacare insurance plans that start on the first of the year is December 15th. Uninsured Americans have until March 31st, 2014 to apply for coverage and avoid tax penalties.