Americans Still Baffled Over Health Reform

| Mon Mar. 21, 2011 7:24 AM PDT

The House passed the Affordable Care Act a year ago today. But despite the partisan warfare over health care reform, public opinion has changed very little. When the law passed last year, Americans were more or less evenly divided over the law. Little has changed since then, Kaiser Health News reports:

A survey this month by the Kaiser Family Foundation found 42 percent of Americans support the health law while 46 percent are opposed. Although both figures were down slightly from February, overall they have changed little since President Barack Obama signed the landmark bill into law on March 23, 2010.

So why haven't Americans changed their minds about health reform, one way or the other? Well, despite the protracted political firefight over reform—or perhaps because of it—they still don't feel they understand what's in it:

The public also remains as confused about the law today as it was a year ago: About 53 percent of Americans said they are confused, the survey found. That is even more widespread among the uninsured and low-income Americans – the groups who have the most to gain from the law, particularly when most coverage expansions take effect in 2014. 

Another recent poll confirms Kaiser's findings. In California, 57 percent of small businesses aren't familiar with new tax credits for employee health insurance that reform offers small employers, and 62 percent don't know about the state-regulated insurance exchange, according to a poll commissioned by pro-reform groups. 

It's rather disheartening news for reform advocates who've spent the last year trying to educate the public about the benefits of reform. But conservative opponents of reform don't necessarily have the upper hand. According to the Kaiser poll, less than 40 percent of the public supports repealing the law, while more than 50 percent would either like to keep the law as is (21 percent)—or expand it further (30 percent). Such numbers also suggest that a significant number of those who oppose reform believe that the law doesn't go far enough. Last fall, for instance, one Associated Press poll found that there are twice as many Americans who oppose reform because it doesn't do enough as compared to those who oppose it because of government overreach.

With Americans still in the dark about what reform means for them, public opinion on the health care remains malleable. Despite the strum und drang of the Republican assault on reform, both sides still have the opportunity to sway public opinion. So Democratic supporters of reform shouldn't assume that they've lost the battle yet.  

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