Online Health Insurance Exchanges Now Top Choice Of Uninsured, Says New Poll

Online health insurance exchanges, the web portals created by states and the federal government under the Affordable Care Act, will be the number one way that uninsured Americans buy health coverage in 2014, a new Gallup poll shows.

Back in October, when the exchanges first went on line, only 45 percent of Americans without insurance said they planned to buy it through the online marketplaces. In the most recent poll, taken between January 2 and January 28, that number is now up to 56 percent.

The exchanges are the heart of the so-called “Obamacare” program for getting insurance to uninsured or under-insured Americans.

Only 22 percent say they plan to obtain insurance from some other source, and another 22 percent haven’t made up their minds yet.

Looking at the whole American public, 53 percent say they plan to gave health insurance in 2014, one way or another.

But curiously, 38 percent of Americans say they plan to pay the fine imposed by the government under the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance mandate rather than buy health coverage for themselves.

It’s a calculated risk, to be sure. According to a New York Times story in November evaluating the risks of not having health insurance, though younger people are more likely to go without health insurance — believing they will have little need for expensive medical services — a person between the ages of 25 and 34 has a five percent chance of running up a medical tab of at least $27,000 in a year.

The same person, with or without health insurance, has a 10 percent chance of racking up a $13,000 bill or more. Those numbers applied to 2011 statistics.

Of course, older individuals would run a greater risk of incurring large medical expenses, making going without health insurance a serious risk of financial disaster. A hospital stay runs about $11,600 per night, the Times said. So even a short hospitalization can be a major financial blow, especially to a person with no health insurance.

The Gallup study notes that a possible reason for the increase in uninsured people now intending to use the health insurance exchanges is the upgrades performed on the national exchange, When went on line in October it was plagued by technical glitches that became a major media story.

But with the national health insurance exchange now operating smoothly on the whole, the prospect of buying health insurance online may seem more inviting now.