The Impact Of State Policies On ACA Applications And Enrollment Among Low-Income Adults In Arkansas Kentucky And Texas
Author: Benjamin D. Sommers, Bethany Maylone, Kevin H. Nguyen, Robert J. Blendon, Arnold M. Epstein
States are taking variable approaches to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) Medicaid expansion, Marketplace design, enrollment outreach, and application assistance. We surveyed nearly 3,000 low-income adults in late 2014 to compare experiences in three states with markedly different policies: Kentucky, which expanded Medicaid, created a successful state Marketplace, and supported outreach efforts; Arkansas, which enacted the private option and a federal-state partnership Marketplace, but with legislative limitations on outreach; and Texas, which did not expand Medicaid and passed restrictions on navigators. We found that application rates, successful enrollment, and positive experiences with the ACA were highest in Kentucky, followed by Arkansas, with Texas performing worst. Limited awareness remains a critical barrier: Fewer than half of adults had heard some or a lot about the coverage expansions. Application assistance from navigators and others was the strongest predictor of enrollment, while Latino applicants were less likely than others to successfully enroll. Twice as many respondents felt that the ACA had helped them as hurt them (although the majority reported no direct impact), and advertising was strongly associated with perceptions of the law. State policy choices appeared to have had major impacts on enrollment experiences among low-income adults and their perceptions of the ACA.