Most uninsured individuals who did not enroll during the first Affordable Care Act open enrollment wanted coverage but either couldn’t find a way to obtain it or didn’t know they could enroll, highlighting the need for more information and assistance for the uninsured such as the services provided by benefit brokers and advisers.

Six in ten (61%) of those who did not enroll during open enrollment 2014 said they wanted coverage but either could not find anything (43%) or things got in the way of signing up (18%), according to a new survey conducted by the non-partisan research firm PerryUndem Research/Communication for Washington, D.C.-based Enroll America — a multi-state grassroots campaign with close ties to the White House. Fifteen percent said they didn’t know they could enroll.

See related: How do you measure ACA enrollment success?

The survey showed a widespread lack of awareness about some important facets of the law that could have impacted decisions about enrollment, illustrating why advisers are critical to the enrollment process, benefit brokers say.

“It doesn’t cost the consumer anything to use an adviser and those that did, understood the product better,” says Naama O. Pozniak, agent and owner of A+ Insurance Service in Studio City, Calif. “For me, it’s a no-brainer to use an agent.”

Tanya Boyd, a benefit adviser and president of the Sunnyvale, Texas-based Tanya Boyd and Associates, agrees, “Americans need to understand that it doesn’t cost them anything to use a professional licensed broker to take them and guide them through the process.”

Pozniak adds: “Advisers are key in this process and they will be key in the next enrollment period, as well,” which she predicts will have much higher enrollment numbers than the first enrollment period.

Boyd recommends advisers get out there “early and often” to communicate to prospective clients the benefits of using a broker to enroll. “Get the word out any way you can — newsletters, social media, chambers, networking events, etc.,” she adds.

The open enrollment period for 2015 kicks off Nov. 15, 2014.

As many as 84% of the uninsured polled by PerryUndem said they were open to enrolling next time around. Specifically, 42% said they would “definitely” or “probably” get insurance for next year if they are still uninsured and another 42% said they are not sure. Only 14% said they will probably or definitely not apply.

Affordability

The survey also found the top reason why some people did not even look for health coverage was the perception that they could not afford insurance.

“People are, in general, scared of the cost of health care,” says Pozniak. “This was one of the bottom line issues we dealt with as a stigma.”

She said enrollees fell on both sides of the coin, with some saving more than $1,000 a month on health care insurance and others who, even with a subsidy, could not afford it.

Only 21% of those who did not try to enroll knew that financial help/a tax subsidy was available to most low- and moderate-income people, while 38% of those who tried to enroll knew this information.

“Knowing this information may have mattered in whether or not someone took a first step to enroll, particularly since affordability was the top barrier to looking for coverage,” the report says.

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