Responses from the General Public Show Strong Correlation to Media Reports, with Limited Actual Experience
Updated: 24 October 8:34 PM EDT
Econintersect: A poll conducted by Pew Research between October 9 and 13 found that almost half (46%) of those polled say that online public health insurance exchanges are not working at all well or are not working “too well”. That is not surprising considering all the news items about exchange website failures. But there is a surprising result in that almost one in three say the sites are working very well or fairly well.
There is another set of data in the Pew results which casts some doubt on the usefulness of the headline numbers. Answering another question, only 14% of respondents reported having visited an exchange. Thus most of the positive and negative results were given via hearsay or from receiving published or broadcast news. So 14% visited but 75% reported how well the sites functioned!
The 25% who answered they didn’t know how well the online exchanges were working probably represent a group that gave a much more well-informed answer. Nearly 4 out of 5 who had an opinion on how well the websites functioned had never visited one!
The lack of objectivity of respondents is reflected by the divergence of answers between self-declared Republicans (14% say “working well”) while more than three times as many self-declared Democrats were positive (44% “working well”). This looks like two groups who don’t need facts, their mind is already made up.
The potential for bias in the polling responses is evident in the correlation between “working well” and “support healthcare law” and the opposing answer pairings.
|Approve of law||42%||53%||5%|
If 4/5 of the 25% who answered “don’t know” about how the exchanges are working split 13:7 not working:working then the first line of data in the above table would be identical to the second.
Econintersect comment: Pew should not have asked the question we have been discussing. The results are likely indistinguishable from responses to “Do you support the healthcare law?”
The Pew results for approval and disapproval of the healthcare law are unchanged (within sampling uncertainty) in the latest poll from what they were in September.
Here is a data summary from the Pew report:
Four final observations:
- To the extent that public HIX (health insurance exchanges) are experiencing difficulties because of high traffic volumes, these problems have been made worse by “lookie-loos” (curiosity seekers). More than half (58%) fall into this category. And 56% were currently insured under an employer plan, Medicare or Medicaid. Almost all of these are not likely Obamacare plan appliacants. Only 32% said they visited solely to look at the insurance options.
- The opinions about HIXs from those who actually visited a website was much different from the opinion of the general public discussed for most of this article. The opinion that the website(s) was (were) “very/fairly easy to use” jumped to 56% (up from 29%) while the opinion “very/fairly difficult to use” declined to 40% (down from 46%).
- Ethnic and age demographics display strong influences on results: younger Americans, African-Americans and those with incomes under $30,000 are much more positive than older or white citizens.
- Only 66% of those without health insurance currently have visited or plan to visit a public HIX in the next six months. And 65% say they plan to get health insurance during that time. However only 26% say they getting insurance because of the new law; the remainder were planning to do so anyway.
Update 24 October 8:34 PM EDT
Another poll was conducted October 17-20 by The Washington Post and ABC News. Results were very similar to the Pew poll a week earlier.
- Public Registers Bumpy Launch of Health Care Exchange Websites (Pew Research, 21 october 2013)
- Many uninsured have tried exchange sites (Allison Bell, Benefits Pro, 22 October 2013)
- Nearly Half a Million Obamacare Applications Filed? (GEI News, 20 October 2013)
- Why the Government HIX is Dead as a Dodo (GEI News, 18 October 2013)
- Obamacare Struggles Forward (GEI News, 16 Ocotber 2013)
- HIX: Data is Hard to Find (GEI News, 09 October 2013)