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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Washington Finds Politics May Influence Whether Residents Sign Up for Health Insurance

New research from the University of Washington School of Public Health sheds light on the role political views may play in whether uninsured Washington residents are likely to sign up for health insurance through the state’s marketplace.

Anirban Basu
[Photo: Dr. Anirban Basu]

UW researchers conducted a statewide mail survey of registered voters in late 2013 and early 2014. They found that 27 percent of more than 4,000 voters who responded had not ruled out purchasing insurance through the state’s insurance marketplace, known as the Washington Health Benefit Exchange and created under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). That projects to about 810,000 citizens statewide who have not ruled out enrolling through the exchange. “Their ambiguity is most likely driven by conflicts between health care needs and financial worries on one hand and their political views on the other,” said lead author Dr. Anirban Basu, professor of Health Services and adjunct professor of Economics and Pharmacy.

The research was published in a National Bureau of Economic Research paper. It revealed that Washington residents who said they were certain to buy insurance on the exchange were more supportive of the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the ACA and were more likely to blame Republicans for the October 2013 government shutdown, compared to those who were unsure. Uninsured people were significantly more likely to buy from the exchange, but not if they blamed Democrats for the shutdown.

That indicates it could be difficult to get certain segments of the eligible population to enroll. “Alternative strategies, for example bipartisan outreach, may be necessary to convince certain groups of eligible beneficiaries to consider enrollment through the Exchange,” Dr. Basu said.