WASHINGTON — A flurry of recent opinion polls indicate that more Americans take a negative view of the health care reforms enacted earlier this year, even though they strongly approve of specific measures.
While the rancorous political debate and partisanship that surrounded passage of the legislation has evidently played a major role in shaping attitudes, another factor appears to be ignorance of the actual content of the reforms.
A survey conducted by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) found that only 14% of those polled knew that significant changes, such as requiring health insurance coverage of young adults up to age 26 and the prohibition of refusal by insurance companies to cover sick children, took effect on September 23.
“People are woefully underinformed, in spite of the fact that we’ve had all this national discussion around health reform,” says Sandy Praeger, insurance commissioner for Kansas and head of NAIC’s health insurance committee.
The NAIC survey was based on a telephone poll of 1,000 adults between August 12 and August 15.
Meanwhile, the Kaiser Health Tracking Poll found that support for health care reform fell seven percentage points in August to 43%, while opposition rose 10 points to 45%. Certain provisions of the law, particularly insurance industry reforms such as those cited above, are popular, but opposition to the individual mandate that requires almost all Americans to purchase insurance coverage rose to 70% in August.
The polls could paint a dark picture for Democrats in the upcoming congressional elections in November. Party leaders had expected their candidates to receive a lift before the election as voters began to realize the benefits of the law.
But the Kaiser Health survey found that slightly more than a third (34%) said they are more likely to oppose a candidate who supported the health care reform law, while 31% are more likely to support such a candidate. One-third (33%) said a candidate’s stance on health care reform would not affect their vote.