It’s Hard to Like Health Reform If You’re Misinformed
Another day, another poll tracking how the public feels about the health reform law.
This one comes from the Kaiser Family Foundation and finds that fewer Americans have an “unfavorable” view of the Affordable Care Act than they did in October, but outright support for the legislation isn’t exactly staggering. Kaiser reports that;
“Americans remain somewhat more likely to have an unfavorable view of the law (44%) than a favorable one (37%). That is a narrower gap than the 51 percent unfavorable/34 percent favorable split seen in October, when the share of the public with a favorable view reached a low point in Kaiser polls”
Not surprisingly, as was the case last month, some key ACA initiatives remain very popular: requiring insurers to provide clear summaries of plan benefits; tax breaks for small businesses offering health insurance; closing the Medicare prescription drug “doughnut hole,” and new rules that would prevent insurers from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions.
And the bad news;
“Far and away the least popular element of the health reform law is the individual mandate…More than six in ten (63%) Americans view this provision unfavorably, including more than four in ten (43%) who have a “very” unfavorable view. Only among Democrats do a majority (53%) register a favorable view of the individual mandate. Just 29 percent of independents and 17 percent of Republicans have a favorable view of it.”
Are you wondering why so many Americans still oppose the requirement that they purchase health insurance? Well, aside from the reasons I’ve discussed elsewhere, it seems that many in the public are just plain misinformed about the health care law. According to the Kaiser poll, fewer than 4 in 10 know that the law eliminates cost-sharing for preventive services and that insurance companies are now required to spend up to 85% of what they take in from premiums on medical care. These are very popular initiatives, among members of the public who know they actually exist.
The recent poll also shows that scare tactics used by the ACA’s opponents have been difficult to overcome. Conservatives continue to refer to health reform as a “government takeover of health care,” and the Kaiser poll finds that more than half (56%) of those polled believe that “the law includes a new government-run insurance plan to be offered along with private plans (while another 13% don’t know if the law does this”. As for the “death panels” that fear-mongers warn are poised to pull the plug on Granny; the poll finds that a third (35%) of the public still thinks “the law allows a government panel to make decisions about end-of-life care for people on Medicare (with another 12% saying they don’t know)”.
What this poll tells me is that Americans see plenty to like in the health law and are already benefiting from some of the early initiatives. But until the administration and its allies in the wider world of opinion begin setting people straight about what is and what is not in the legislation, support will continue to move incrementally up and down–in some cases depending on the individual pollster and how the survey questions are asked. Where are all the spin doctors when you need them?