More than half of the people who selected a health plan on Obamacare’s exchanges were uninsured before they signed up, according to a broad survey released Thursday that lends ammo to the law’s supporters and foes alike.
The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation said nearly six in 10, or 57 percent, of customers were not covered by insurance before they entered the overhaul’s health exchanges — a markedly higher rate than in previously reported estimates.
“There has been considerable debate about how many people signing up for coverage in the new exchanges were uninsured,” foundation President and CEO Drew Altman said. “Our survey reveals that the majority of people who enrolled in the new exchanges were previously uninsured.”
The survey offers the first look at how Obamacare’s coverage standards and mandates are impacting people who purchased health insurance by themselves.
Not all of the news was positive for the Obama administration and its Democratic allies. Four in 10 people who hold Obamacare-compliant plans said is it difficult to afford their monthly premiums, and six in 10 fear their premiums will cost too much down the road.
Already, Republican critics are pouncing on reports of double-digit rate increases in parts of the country ahead of Obamacare’s second round. The Obama administration says those claims are based on preliminary proposals to state regulators and that premiums overall are rising at a slower rate than usual.
The Kaiser survey found people who switched plans were as likely to say they are paying less for a new plan (46 percent) as those who say they are paying more (39 percent).
“While there was much controversy last fall over ‘rate shock’ for people who had their policies canceled, it’s now apparent that just as many people got financial relief under the Affordable Care Act,” Kaiser Senior Vice President Larry Levitt said.
But Republicans, hoping to take back the Senate this year, are using last year’s plan cancellations to whip up fervor on the campaign trail, accusing Democrats of lying to their constituents about the law’s ramifications.
Outrage over the canceled plans was exacerbated by the failed launch of HealthCare.gov, a federal website that served 36 states. The law required most Americans to hold health insurance as of 2014, yet people who lost their bare-bones coverage couldn’t explore their options.
A pair of GOP senators said in a legislative report Thursday the administration ignored warning signs that auditors and agency officials raised ahead of the website’s launch on Oct. 1. They said politically driven delays and pressure from the White House nudged the federal website toward its disastrous debut.
“Unfortunately, it should come as no surprise that this Administration once again chose to put political expediency ahead of security and performance concerns,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch, Utah Republican who released the report with Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa.
Departing White House press secretary Jay Carney said Thursday his most difficult period in the administration was during the dark days of the web site’s rollout.
“This one was completely of our doing, completely our responsibility,” Mr. Carney told reporters at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor. “We had really not gotten it right. That made everyone feel, from the president on down, a great deal of responsibility. This was on us.”
• Dave Boyer contributed to this report.