Health policy experts were buoyed by the uninsured's strong desire for coverage: eight in ten of those eligible under the Affordable Care Act’s coverage expansion feel they need health insurance and 57 percent believe health insurance is worth the money. “That tells me that people do value health coverage and will take action to get themselves covered if it's affordable,” said Michael Cousineau, a professor of Family Medicine and Preventive Medicine at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California. “I just don't think it's going to happen overnight.”
Undocumented immigrants have misplaced expectations of the Affordable Care Act, according to the survey. The law specifically forbids illegal immigrants from buying insurance in the state exchanges, and they are already barred from enrolling in Medicaid. Yet the survey found 49 percent believe they may qualify for Medicaid and 43 percent expect to shop for coverage on the exchange.
Sindi Duarte, an undocumented immigrant who lives in Antioch, Calif., has not seen any ads about the coverage expansion. “I don't know much about it,” said Duarte, 19, who was born in Guatemala and entered the United States with her parents when she was 2. She recently received a permit to remain in the U.S. under an immigration policy adopted last June by President Barack Obama, and in April was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. She is receiving some care for her condition, but has no health insurance. She is uncertain if the law will help her. “I thought I was [eligible for insurance], but I’m not completely sure.”
The survey is unusual in that the foundation expects to track the same pool of people, who are entering the open enrollment period uninsured, for as long as two years to assess the effectiveness of the state's Medicaid expansion and Covered California, the new insurance marketplace meant to ease the burden of buying health coverage.
“Only through a poll like this can we see what Obamacare means for real people,” said Mollyann Brodie, director of public opinion and survey research at the foundation. “Is it impacting their lives? Is it helping or not? What's working and not working about the law?”
Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan health policy research and communications organization not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.