Poll: Less than half aware of March ObamaCare deadline

Fewer than half of the respondents in a new poll know they must carry health insurance by the end of March in order to avoid a penalty under ObamaCare.

Most people said the cutoff would be delayed, regardless, because of problems with the healthcare rollout and in line with other enactment deadlines that have been changed, the survey found.

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The level of public confusion about the healthcare law became clear when people were asked to identify the deadline for complying with the individual mandate to carry health coverage.

Fewer than half (45 percent) correctly said March 31, 2014. Another 24 percent said the cutoff passed on Jan. 1, while 11 percent said it will come on Dec. 31, 2014. Twenty percent chose none of the dates given, or said they didn't know.

The survey was conducted by finance website Bankrate, and underscores the challenge facing the Obama administration when it comes to educating the public about how to comply with ObamaCare.

There is a strong expectation that the March 31 deadline will not stand, according to the survey. Sixty-two percent of respondents expect it to be pushed back, while only 29 percent said it will remain the same.

The administration has received pressure to delay the deadline and extend open enrollment in the new health exchanges because of the problems with their launch last fall. So far, no changes have been announced.

Enforcing the individual mandate is one of the next big tasks for the administration. Consumers without health insurance this year will not have to pay the penalty until spring 2015, but even more confusion is expected at that time as people encounter the mandate as part of their tax filing process.

Still, experts said it's good news that 45 percent of people know the March 31 deadline, given the public's general lack of knowledge about the healthcare law.

Health policy researcher Gerald Kominski with the University of California Los Angeles said many people are mixed up because of House Republicans' 40-plus attempts to defund, repeal or change ObamaCare.

"Data show there's a core group of about 25 percent of Americans who believe the law has been repealed because one house of Congress has voted 44 times to repeal it," Kominski told Bankrate. "They've forgotten that that's not the way laws get passed or repealed in the United States."

The survey of 1,006 adults was conducted between Jan. 16-19 and has a margin of error of 3.5 percent.