By Elise Viebeck - 06/19/14 11:03 AM EDT
Nearly six in 10 enrollees on ObamaCare's healthcare marketplaces lacked coverage before they signed up, according to a new poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation.
The survey data helps answer the overriding question of ObamaCare's first enrollment period: did the law make a dent in the number of uninsured Americans, or was it mostly people with cancelled plans and those hunting better deals who joined the exchanges?
But the Kaiser results provide the first glimpse of exactly how many sign-ups came from people without health insurance, a dimension of enrollment that federal health officials have been hesitant to discuss.
Fifty-seven percent did not have a health plan when they signed up for the exchanges, according to the survey.
Most of the uninsured had been so for an extended period of time, with 70 percent reporting that they lacked coverage for two years or more and 45 percent saying they were uninsured for at least five years.
The figures likely come as welcome news to Democrats, who promised that the Affordable Care Act would help reduce the number of people who were uninsured in its first year.
They are also likely to contribute to Republicans' silence on the issue.
Many in the GOP questioned whether ObamaCare enrollments would rise above the number of plans cancelled as a result of the law, but that discussion has gone quiet since the administration reported more than 8 million sign-ups in May.
The survey also looked at exchanges enrollees' opinions of their new health coverage. A strong majority, 72 percent, rated their coverage as excellent or good.
A similar level of satisfaction was reflected across the group that bought plans on the individual market that complied with the Affordable Care Act, whether that purchase was made on or off the exchanges.
Majorities of that group they were very or somewhat satisfied with their choice of providers, co-pays, premiums and deductibles. But cost appeared to be an issue for some non-group enrollees, with one-third saying they were not satisfied with their premiums or deductibles.
The survey was conducted from April 3 to May 11 with 742 adults who purchase their own health insurance. The margin of error was 4 percent for the full sample and 6 percent for people who enrolled in the exchanges.