Obamacare: Who Prefers to Pay Fine for Being Uninsured?

PHOTO: Sakoun Khanthanoua reads a Maryland Health Connection health insurance marketplace pamphlet while waiting to speak to a health navigator in Silver Spring, Md., Dec. 7, 2013. Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg/Getty Images
Sakoun Khanthanoua reads a Maryland Health Connection health insurance marketplace pamphlet while waiting to speak to a health navigator in Silver Spring, Md., Dec. 7, 2013.

What distinguishes Americans who say they'll sign up for health insurance under Obamacare from those who say they won't? Surprisingly, it's not age.

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Mollyann Brodie, Ph.D., director of public opinion and survey research for the Kaiser Family Foundation in California, tells ABC News that in California and across the nation the "vast majority" of young adults see health coverage as important. They say it's something they need and want.

A national poll by Kaiser conducted in November asked uninsured people of all ages (18-64) if they thought they would be signing up for health insurance in 2014: 58 percent said yes, 34 percent said no.

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What does Kaiser know about the demographics of the two groups?

"Those who don't plan to get coverage actually skew a bit older," says Brodie. "Twenty percent of those who don't plan to get coverage are under age 30, compared to 34 percent of those who do."

Politics, it seems, is a defining difference between the haves and have-nots.

Those who don't plan to get coverage are less likely to be Democrats or Democratic-leaning independents, compared with those who do (38 percent vs. 53 percent).

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Referring to the respondents' politics, Brodie says, "That's the single biggest driver on whether you want to buy or not. The political lens is the most important."

It's not age that distinguishes the two camps. Kaiser polled California's young uninsured in November and found the following:

Some 58 percent of California's eligible uninsured (ages 18-34) said they planned to get health coverage--similar or higher than the older uninsured. Says Brodie, referring to both the national and the California surveys, "We see no evidence in either project that the young uninsured are less interested in signing up."

The California poll was conducted by Kaiser from July 11 through August 29, 2013. It queried by phone a representative sample of 2,001 California adults between the ages 19 to 64 who said they had been living without health insurance for at least two months at the time of the interview. The margin of error for the 19-34 year olds (on whom most of the poll's findings are based) is plus or minus 6 percentage points.

About three in four of California's young uninsured say they feel the need to have health insurance, according to the poll. Only one in four say they feel healthy enough that they don't really need coverage. The majority of young people – six in 10 – say that health insurance is worth the cost.

When told or reminded that "nearly all Americans [will be required] to have health insurance by 2014 or else pay a fine," a clear majority of the youngest group (ages 18-34) of uninsured Californians – 58 percent – said they planned to get coverage next year. That compares to 48 percent of respondents aged 35-49 and 52 percent of those aged 50-64. At least as of late summer, 33 percent of young respondents thought they would remain uninsured, compared respectively to 33 percent and 27 percent for the older age groups.

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