Three-Quarters of the Uninsured Are Likely to Buy Health Insurance When Affordable Care Act is Implemented

New study from Oliver Wyman is the first to analyze the needs and preferences of Americans who lack health coverage

NEW YORK--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- Three-quarters of Americans without health insurance are likely to obtain coverage starting in 2014, according to a new survey by the Health & Life Sciences practice of Oliver Wyman. In all, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) seems on track to reduce the uninsured to 5 percent of the population.

Under ACA, roughly 33 million Americans will be required to purchase health insurance for themselves. (Another 18 million uninsured will be eligible to receive coverage under Medicaid.) Many will receive federal subsidies, and those who choose not to obtain coverage will pay a penalty. The study, believed to be the first major market research survey of the uninsured, looked not just at whether this group will buy, but also at what kind of coverage they would buy and what drives their decisions.

A key part of the survey was a series of personalized, realistic choice scenarios. Participants were presented various fictional insurance policies with prices that were actuarially valid and reflected ACA subsidies for the participants’ actual income levels. Participants could also elect not to buy insurance and instead pay the penalty appropriate for their income.

Overall, 76 percent of respondents chose to purchase insurance. “Our research shows that uninsured Americans overwhelmingly see value in coverage,” says Terry Stone, a partner in Oliver Wyman’s Health & Life Sciences practice and one of the authors of the study. “But few really understand their options or even what a healthcare exchange is. They need to be educated.”

Two other key insights from the survey:

The uninsured are extremely price-sensitive. This means that subsidies will play a major role in keeping consumers in the program. Interestingly, if falling subsidies drive consumers back to the ranks of the uninsured, middle-income consumers will suffer more than poor consumers.

Consumers are ready to make tradeoffs to get the kind of coverage they want and need at a price they can afford—paying more for convenience and access, or agreeing to lifestyle changes for a discount. That is encouraging news for reform’s next goal: to encourage innovation in the way care is delivered.

A report on the survey can be downloaded at

About Oliver Wyman

Oliver Wyman’s Health & Life Sciences practice serves clients in the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, medical devices, provider, and payer sectors with strategic, operational, and organizational advice. Deep healthcare knowledge and capabilities allow the practice to deliver fact-based solutions.

With offices in 50+ cities across 25 countries, Oliver Wyman is an international management consulting firm that combines deep industry knowledge with specialized expertise in strategy, operations, risk management, organizational transformation, and leadership development. The firm’s 3,000 professionals help clients optimize their businesses, improve their operations and risk profile, and accelerate their organizational performance to seize the most attractive opportunities. Oliver Wyman is part of Marsh & McLennan Companies [NYSE: MMC]. For more information, visit


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