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AgileHealthInsurance Survey | 2017-01-05

Only One-out-of-Four Americans Confident about 2017 Obamacare Enrollment Rules

With transition comes confusion. For the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the approaching transition to a new presidential administration has brought with it the possibility of the repeal of the ACA. To further complicate matters, the new administration has also discussed a yet-unspecified ACA health insurance replacement. These discussions of “repeal and replace” have occurred in the midst of the ACA’s open enrollment period, when consumers are expected to select a health plan that will provide coverage for coming year.

This year’s open enrollment period itself has brought another set of complications. While the enrollment period lasts from November 1st  through January 31st, people needing insurance coverage to begin on January 1st  must enroll in December. For the approximately three dozen states using the federal marketplace,, the December enrollment deadline for coverage effective on January 1st  was originally December 15th. However, shortly before this cutoff date the government announced that it had extended the deadline through December 19th.[1]  As reported in USA Today, several states with their own marketplaces (California, Connecticut, and New York) already had a different date, December 17th, as the official deadline for January 1st  coverage.[2]  California subsequently moved its deadline back even further to align with the new deadline.[3]  USA Today also reported that Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Washington State had an even later deadline at December 23rd.

Against this plurality of deadlines and a pending presidential administration that is critical of the ACA, AgileHealthInsurance conducted a nationwide poll that asked, “With changes in states’ Obamacare insurance application deadlines & Trump’s plans to repeal/replace Obamacare, are you confident you understand Obamacare’s enrollment rules?”

Survey respondents had the choice of selecting one of four answers:

  • I’m confident I understand the rules
  • I think I understand the rules
  • I’m not confident I understand the rules
  • I don’t understand the rules

1,153 people across the country responded to Agile’s survey. The most popular answer to the survey question was “I don’t understand the rules.” This answer was selected by over four-in-ten respondents. An additional 17 percent of respondents indicated that they were not confident they understood the rules. Only one-in-four respondents claimed that they were confident that they understood the ACA’s enrollment rules. Over half of the respondents (58 percent) either didn’t understand the ACA enrollment rules or expressed uncertainty regarding these rules.

ACA, Obamacare, enrollment

The consequences of this enrollment confusion could negatively affect the ACA. For example, there is the risk that the lack of certainty regarding the insurance deadline could result in some consumers missing the current enrollment window and being locked out of the ACA health insurance market until 2018. Additionally, the deadline uncertainty may also reflect some misunderstanding within the public regarding the persistence of the ACA rules from one administration to the next (until such a time that new legislation is passed).

This latter issue could be a concern for the Obama administration if true. Rules like the uninsured penalty are strategically important to motivate a portion of the public to buy ACA insurance. Any doubts over its enforcement could negatively affect the Obama administration’s goal to enroll 13.8 million people by January 31, 2017.[4]  Early signs do indicate consumer questions regarding the ACA’s continuation; specifically, the Obama administration has reported that their federal call center has received over 30,000 calls from consumers who wanted to know, given the election of Donald Trump, if they should still sign up for a 2017 health plan.[5]


In the waning days of the Obama administration, the government will need to work harder than ever to educate the public on ACA deadline rules as well as their persistence into 2017. The government has reported 400,000 more enrollees by December 19th  of this year than by the same period one year ago.[6]  However, it is unclear to what extent this represents consumers who were heavily committed to the ACA already, as opposed to new enrollees from an expanding ACA market.

For those who miss the ACA enrollment deadline or choose to ignore it, short term medical insurance will continue to be available in 2017 as a coverage option while these consumers are locked out of the ACA market until the next enrollment period. Unlike the ACA, the pending Trump administration has made no criticisms of this product nor has the administration threatened “repeal and replace” as it has with the ACA.


Results are based on 1,153 responses to a nationwide survey conducted from December 19, 2016 to December 21, 2016. The survey asked respondents, "With changes in states' Obamacare insurance application deadlines & Trump's plans to repeal/replace Obamacare, are you confident you understand Obamacare's enrollment rules?" Respondents had the option of selecting one of the following four answers: “I’m confident I understand the rules,” “I think I understand the rules,” “I'm not confident I understand the rules,” and “I don’t understand the rules.” The answer options were displayed in fixed order across respondents.

The survey was displayed within a network of over 100 different news web sites and other content sites. Demographic inferencing and methodology to acquire survey respondents who approximate national statistics on age, gender, income, and region was performed by Google-administered technology. Race, education, and health insurance status were not examined. Margin of error across survey responses is estimated at +2.5%/-2.5%.

  1. Last accessed December 22, 2016.
  2. Jayne O’Donnel. “Feds extend deadline to Dec. 19, citing late rush.” USA Today (December 16, 2016). Last accessed December 22, 2016.
  3. Paul Glickman. “Covered California pushes deadline 2 more days.” (December 16, 2016). Last accessed December 23, 2016.
  4. “We’re confident that millions of Americans will choose to enroll when they learn that quality, affordable health insurance is within reach,” [HHS Secretary Sylvia] Burwell said. “We believe 13.8 million sign-ups during the upcoming Open Enrollment will help keep driving down the national uninsured rate, which is already the lowest in our nation’s history.” Department of Health & Human Services. “13.8 million Americans expected to select Marketplace plans during the upcoming Open Enrollment.” (October 19, 2016). Last accessed December 27, 2016.
  5. Robert Pear. “Health Exchange Enrollment Jumps, Even as G.O.P. Pledges Repeal.” New York Times. (December , 2016). Last accessed December 27, 2016.
  6. Ibid. “But consumers are becoming concerned, administration officials say. Ms. Burwell said the federal call center had ‘heard from more than 30,000 people worrying about the future of their coverage in the wake of the election, and wondering whether they should still sign up for a 2017 plan.’”