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HealthCare Checkup

The Seattle Times health-care team tracks the local impact of the Affordable Care Act.

December 10, 2013 at 1:29 PM

Poll: Americans better understand, still don’t love, health-care reform

The federal website.

The federal website.

National polls find that while 60 percent of Americans say they understand the Affordable Care Act requirement that nearly everyone must have health insurance, slightly more than half don’t like the health-care overhaul and want it changed or chucked.

A poll released today by Harris Interactive dug more deeply into the opinions of the uninsured, who face penalties if they don’t get insurance by March of next year. The survey found that more than one-third of uninsured Americans say they are prepared to make health-insurance choices — but 31 percent said they didn’t know about the health insurance exchanges set up to sell the coverage.

On top of that, 61 percent of the uninsured say they have done “nothing” in the past year to get ready for the Affordable Care Act. More than half say they don’t know what they’re going to do about the requirement that they get insurance.

The poll by Harris Interactive surveyed 1,005 Americans through an online survey conducted Nov. 4 – 11 and released Tuesday by Transamerica Center for Health Studies. Of the 1,005 questioned, 221 were uninsured.

As you may recall, it’s been rough going since the Oct. 1 launch of online insurance markets created to enroll people in individual insurance plans. The federal site, which serves 36 states, essentially wasn’t working for weeks and only really kicked into gear over the last week or so. Washington state’s site had some hiccups, then got itself sorted out, but in the past few days has been down again for software fixes.

Added to those technical glitches like a bee sting on a raging sunburn was the outcry by folks who learned their individual and family insurance plans were being canceled at the end of the year. People felt betrayed by President Obama’s promise that if you liked your health care plan, you could keep it.

In Washington, nearly all of the 290,000 people covered by individual plans — roughly 4 percent of the population — learned their plans were being canceled, mostly because they didn’t meet all of the new, more extensive benefits required by the Affordable Care Act. One objective of the ACA is to make sure most all Americans have more robust coverage, including prescription drugs, preventive care and maternity care.

Now the uninsured are facing a Dec. 23 deadline for signing up for health insurance, if they want the benefits to kick in by the first of the year.

A survey conducted and released last week by Gallup found that only 37 percent of Americans approve of the Affordable Care Act or would like to see it expanded while 52 percent want it revised or repealed (the rest are undecided).

The crazy thing — given all of the recent attention to the problems with the roll out of the health-insurance exchanges — is that public opinion hasn’t changed a whole bunch from the same Gallup survey nearly three years ago. In January 2011, 37 percent of those surveyed approved of the ACA while 57 percent did not.

The Gallup poll queried 1,017 Americans by land-line and cell phones. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 4 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level. Not all of the questions in the Harris survey were asked of each respondent so a general margin of error for the entire survey is not available.

How could public opinion remain so constant despite the tumult in recent news? It could come down to politics.

The Seattle Times teamed up with the Elway Poll in September to take the ACA pulse of Washington residents. It turned out that public opinion on health-care reform largely hewed with political leanings.

In that survey, 80 percent of Democrats approved of the Affordable Care Act, while 80 percent of Republicans did not.



Comments | Topics: Affordable Care Act, health insurance marketplace, Washington Healthplanfinder


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