What American Public Thinks About Affordable Care Act Now: Kaiser

January 31, 2014

After mostly being split following the Affordable Care Act’s passage in 2010, the public’s views of the law became more negative after the troubled rollout of Healthcare.gov, and this month’s tracking poll by The Kaiser Family Foundation shows that they have not rebounded or fallen further since then.

January Continues Post-Rollout Shift in Opinion
January Continues Post-Rollout Shift in Opinion

The January poll finds 50 percent of the public have an unfavorable view of the law, while 34 percent have a favorable one. Opinion stands at about the same place it was in October of 2011 during the Republican presidential primary debates.

Though the major provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) took effect Jan. 1, the new poll finds little change in the public’s knowledge of the law. With enrollment underway, just one in five (19%) say that most or all of the law’s provisions have been put into place, and large shares of the uninsured are unaware of major provisions of the law that could affect them.

Almost half of the uninsured are not aware that the law provides financial help to low- and moderate-income Americans to help them purchase coverage, and about half don’t know it gives states the option of expanding their Medicaid programs and prohibits insurance companies from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions. And, 66 percent of the uninsured (and 44% of the public overall) say they don’t have enough information to understand how the law will impact their families. Awareness of the new insurance marketplaces is somewhat higher.

Half of Uninsured  Unaware of Major ACA Provisions
Half of Uninsured Unaware of Major ACA Provisions

Among those who are uninsured, about a quarter (24%) now say they have a favorable view of the law, while about twice as many (47%) have an unfavorable view. In December, the uninsured were more evenly split (36% favorable, 43% unfavorable). Most people who are uninsured see health coverage as very important (70%) and something they need (73%).

Although more people have an unfavorable view of the law than a favorable one, most people want it to continue and to be improved. More than half (55%) of the public, including three in ten (31%) of those who view the law unfavorably, say opponents should accept that it’s the law of the land and work to improve it. Fewer (38%) want opponents to continue efforts to repeal the law.

More Want To Improve ACA Rather Than Repeal It
More Want To Improve ACA Rather Than Repeal It

When asked about their views of the media coverage of the ACA, the majority (56%) continues to say coverage has focused more on politics and controversies rather than on how the law will impact people (6%). About half the public (47%) reports hearing at least one news story in the last month about an individual or family who was impacted by the law, with about twice as many saying they saw more stories about people being harmed (27%) as saying they saw more stories about people being helped (13%).

The survey was designed and analyzed by public opinion researchers at the Kaiser Family Foundation and was conducted from Jan. 14-21 among a nationally representative random digit dial telephone sample of 1,506 adults ages 18 and older. Telephone interviews conducted by landline (753) and cell phone (753, including 402 who had no landline telephone) were carried out in English and Spanish. The margin of sampling error for the full sample is plus or minus 3 percentage points. For results based on subgroups, the margin of sampling error may be higher.

Source: The Kaiser Family Foundation, a non-profit private operating foundation, based in Menlo Park, California.

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