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What Obamacare? Meet 4 People Choosing To Remain Uninsured

WebMD News from Kaiser Health News

By Stephanie O'Neill, Southern California Public Radio

Thu, Apr 24 2014

Despite a surge in enrollment in the two weeks before the April 15 deadline to enroll for insurance under the health law, many more Californians have not signed up.

And they’re unlikely to. Many people are uninterested in health insurance, confused or skeptical. Here are some examples:

-- Scott Belsha, from Long Beach, falls in the  “skeptical” category. "I’ve been consumed with living my life, and I'm fortunate to be healthy," he says. He works as a musician and carpenter, and he's never had health insurance — not even as a kid. His parents, who own a small business, always paid cash for medical care — most of which they were able to get from a doctor friend. He adds: "I haven’t ever been to the hospital or broken a bone. But I’m 34, and I should probably start thinking about it.”

-- Steven Petersen, 40, of Los Angeles said he looked into his options, but couldn't afford $240 a month, the lowest premium he could find. "My mom's been calling every day saying, 'You need to get health insurance,'" said Petersen, who manages a West Hollywood health store. "But I’m a pretty healthy guy, so I really don’t see the point of it because it’s so expensive." He'd prefer a cheap catastrophic coverage plan, but those are only offered to consumers under 30 years old or people with hardship exemptions.

-- Lorenzo Hebert, 47, of Los Angeles works at a Pasadena thrift store that doesn't provide job-based health insurance to part-timers. He, too, says he's shied away from buying insurance, mostly because he just hasn't had time to figure out exactly what he's supposed to do. "I've seen it on TV, but never had the time I could do it," Hebert says.

Larry Levitt, senior vice president at the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation, said he wasn't expecting every uninsured person to sign up during this first year. (Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the foundation.)

"We're really early on," Levitt said. "The expectations are that enrollment will ramp up both in Medi-Cal and Covered California over a period of years."

Under the health law, most people earning less than about $16,000 a year are eligible for low- or no-cost health insurance through Medi-Cal, the state's Medicaid program.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that, even years from now, the number of uninsured will remain significant: about 30 million nationwide. Some portion will be those who live in states that have not opted to expand their Medicaid program to adults without dependent children; others will be immigrants who don’t qualify for coverage under the law. "But the biggest category are people who simply will choose either not to enroll in Medicaid or not to buy private insurance," Levitt says.

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