Background: The Affordable Care Act was modeled on the Massachusetts Health Reform of 2006, which reduced the number of uninsured largely through a Medicaid expansion and the provision of publicly subsidized insurance obtained through a Health Benefits Exchange.
Methods: We surveyed a convenience sample of 780 patients seeking care in a safety-net system who obtained Medicaid or publicly subsidized insurance after the Massachusetts reform, as well as a group of employed patients with private insurance.
Results: We found that although most patients with Medicaid or publicly subsidized exchange-based plans were able to obtain assistance with applying for and choosing an insurance plan, substantial proportions of respondents experienced difficulties with the application process and with understanding coverage and cost features of plans.
Conclusions: Under the Affordable Care Act, efforts to simplify the application process and reduce the complexity of plans may be warranted, particularly for vulnerable patient populations cared for by the medical safety net.
Keywords: Experiences; Health reform; Insurance; Massachusetts.