11/23/2013 09:19 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Most Americans Know Obamacare Means They Must Have Health Insurance, Poll Shows


WASHINGTON -- Most Americans are aware of the Affordable Care Act's mandate that they have some form of health insurance beginning in 2014, but many don't know there are exceptions, according to a new HuffPost/YouGov poll.

The poll found the vast majority of Americans, 81 percent, know that the health care law requires insurance. But 43 percent of respondents said they think the law requires every American to have insurance, with no exceptions. Slightly less -- 38 percent -- said correctly that the insurance mandate has exceptions. Another 4 percent said they believe the law does not require anyone to have insurance.

The misconception about exceptions to the insurance mandate was highest among Republicans, 52 percent of whom said that there were no exceptions. Among Democrats, a 43 percent said there were no exceptions and 39 percent said there were. Thirty-eight percent of independents said there were no exceptions; 36 percent said there were and 21 percent said they weren't sure.

Obamacare's individual mandate includes a variety of exceptions, including for those with low incomes and other hardships, as well as for American Indians and religious groups that eschew health insurance.

Although the new poll shows some confusion persists about details of the individual mandate, knowledge of its existence is widespread. A Kaiser Family Foundation poll in September found 79 percent of respondents said they thought the law included an individual mandate -- the highest awareness for the mandate since the foundation began tracking the question in April 2010. Only 62 percent were aware of the mandate two years ago.

The new poll found 35 percent favored requiring most Americans to buy insurance, with some exceptions such as for income and other hardships, while 47 percent were opposed.

The poll found Democrats and Republicans deeply divided on the issue, with 62 percent of Democrats in favor of the mandate and 77 percent of Republicans opposed. Still, opposition among Republicans ran stronger than support among Democrats. Independents said they opposed the mandate by a 51 percent to 26 percent margin.

Relatively few Americans said they think the mandate will affect them directly. Fifty-seven percent of respondents said they would have health insurance regardless of the law. Another 12 percent said they would have to buy insurance they would not otherwise purchase, and 7 percent said they would go without insurance and pay a penalty. Two percent said they believed they would receive an exemption to go without insurance. Another 23 percent said they weren't sure how the requirement would affect them.

According to the Census Bureau, about 15 percent of Americans were without insurance in 2012.

The poll found confusion about when the individual mandate takes effect. Twenty-two percent of respondents believed the mandate was already in effect, 31 percent said it will go into effect on the next few months, and 27 percent said it will be in the next year. Only 5 percent said they think it will be longer than that.

The mandate takes effect on Jan. 1, although consumers have until March 31 to choose a plan and avoid penalties. The mandate allows individuals to be uninsured for up to three months in a year without a penalty.

The HuffPost/YouGov poll was conducted Nov. 19 and Nov. 20 among 1,000 U.S. adults using a sample selected from YouGov's opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population. Factors considered include age, race, gender, education, employment, income, marital status, number of children, voter registration, time and location of Internet access, interest in politics, religion and church attendance.

The Huffington Post has teamed up with YouGov to conduct daily opinion polls. You can learn more about this project and take part in YouGov's nationally representative opinion polling.



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