The next open enrollment period for plans offered in the Affordable Care Act's (ACA's) insurance Marketplaces is set to occur between November 15, 2014, and February 15, 2015--just when many lower-income people are financially stressed by demands of the holiday season. Recent research by experimental psychologists and behavioral economists strongly suggests that when people's decision-making capacity (bandwidth) is stretched thin, either they cannot make decisions or they make poor choices. Using data from nearly a decade of US-based Internet search queries to measure population behavior, we found considerable seasonality in measures of financial stress and in when people seek out information on health insurance plans. A more opportune time for scheduling open enrollment for the ACA Marketplaces may be between February 15 and April 15--weeks when low-income people typically receive income tax refunds and Earned Income Tax Credit payments. Such lump-sum payments could be applied to pay individuals' share of premiums.
Project HOPE—The People-to-People Health Foundation, Inc.