Most Residents Do Not Understand ACA, New Tracking Poll Finds
Three years after the Affordable Care Act was enacted, nearly six in 10 U.S. residents feel they do not have enough information to understand the law and how it will affect them, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation's March tracking poll released Wednesday, the Los Angeles Times reports (Levey, Los Angeles Times, 3/20).
The poll was conducted via telephone from March 5 through March 10 with a sample of 1,204 adults age 18 and older. The results have a sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points (Norman, CQ HealthBeat, 3/20).
Additional Results From KFF Tracking Poll
According to the poll, unfamiliarity with the law is much higher among groups that are expected to benefit the most from the ACA (Los Angeles Times, 3/20). Sixty-seven percent of uninsured respondents under age 65 and 68% of respondents with annual household incomes under $40,000 said they have an inadequate understanding of the law.
Further, few respondents said they knew about their states' decisions on two key components of the ACA: the creation of health insurance exchanges and the expansion of Medicaid. KFF researchers said that 48% of respondents have heard "nothing at all" about their state's decision on the online insurance marketplaces, while 78% said they are not aware of their state's position on the Medicaid expansion (CQ HealthBeat, 3/20).
The poll also found that U.S. residents are more likely to have better knowledge about specific aspects of the ACA that they do not support and that "the more popular a provision is, the less likely people are to realize" it is in the ACA, The Hill's "Healthwatch" reports.
Those finds could indicate that opponents of the ACA have done a better job defining the law according to "Healthwatch."
For example, the poll found that:
- 88% of respondents said they support the idea of providing small businesses with tax credits to offset the cost of health insurance coverage, but just 52% indicated that they know the ACA provides such tax credits; and
- 74% of respondents are aware of the ACA's individual mandate, but only 40% said they support the minimum coverage requirement.
The poll also found that misinformation about the ACA still is widespread, with:
- 57% of respondents stating incorrectly that the law includes a "public option;"
- 44% stating incorrectly that the law cuts Medicare benefits;
- 40% stating incorrectly that the law creates a federal "death panel" that will make decisions about end-of-life care (Baker, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 3/20);
- About one-third stating incorrectly that the law will not close the Medicare drug prescription coverage gap known as the "doughnut hole;" and
- 27% stating incorrectly that the law will not raise the Medicare payroll tax for U.S. residents with higher incomes.
Meanwhile, the poll found that 58% of respondents believe the national cost of health care has been increasing at a higher rate than normal in recent years, despite reports indicating a significant deceleration in the growth of health care spending, CQ HealthBeat reports (CQ HealthBeat, 3/20).
In terms of overall public opinion about the ACA, the KFF poll found that respondents remain divided, with 40% holding an unfavorable view of the law and 37% a favorable view. Based on party affiliation, 58% of self-identified Democrats and 18% of self-identified Republicans said they support the law (Los Angeles Times, 3/20).
Democrats Facing 2014 Elections Feel Secure in Support of ACA
Democratic senators facing reelection in 2014 are signaling greater confidence in expressing their support for the ACA publicly, "Healthwatch" reports. While the ACA still draws divisive debates among lawmakers on Capitol Hill, observers say the law is no longer the "political weapon" that it used to be during election campaigns over the last three years, according to "Healthwatch."
The ACA was frequently cited as the reason for Democrats' deep losses in the 2010 mid-term elections. However, some party strategists note that the string of victories in 2012 -- which allowed Democrats to strengthen their control of the Senate and close the gap with Republicans in the GOP-controlled house -- indicated that the issue has "lost steam," "Healthwatch" reports.
However, several politically unpopular provisions of the ACA -- including the individual and employer mandates, and possible increases in insurance premiums for younger individuals -- that are slated to take effect in 2014 and could push health care up in front of Democrats, experts say. At the same time?, several popular provisions -- such as those that prohibit insurers from denying coverage to individuals with pre-existing conditions and the availability of subsidies to obtain coverage -- also will take effect, and Republicans might have a more difficult time campaigning against those provisions (Baker, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 3/21).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.