People Are Polarized, Uninformed On Affordable Care Act, Study Shows

Photo courtesy of Kansas City Business Journal

As politicians in Missouri and elsewhere fiercely debate proposed Medicaid expansion, Americans find themselves with little information about what their states are doing with regard to the Affordable Care Act.

A recent poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation found Americans are generally less informed about the Affordable Care Act than they once were, and their opinions of it are more polarized along party lines than ever.

With many provisions of the health care reform legislation still to go into effect, 57 percent of those surveyed said they did not know how the legislation will affect them. That percentage is even higher (67 percent) for the uninsured.

As states across the country, including Missouri, debate how to implement insurance exchanges and whether or not to expand Medicaid, many people are uninformed about their own state’s decisions.

Only 22 percent of respondents said they knew “a lot” or even “some” about state’s plan for an insurance exchange. And nearly 80 percent of respondents said they didn’t know enough to say whether or not their governor has announced a move to expand Medicaid with federal assistance, as provided for under the health care bill.

Misinformation on the Affordable Care Acts is just as widespread as lack of information about it, the study shows.

A majority of respondents (57 percent) thought the law creates a government-run health care plan, nearly half (47 percent) think undocumented immigrants can receive government money to buy insurance and 40 percent still believe in the mythical “death panels” with the power to decide end-of-life care for Medicare recipients. (The health care law allows for none of those things.)

The lack of knowledge about the bill and its effects hasn’t stopped people from forming opinions on it.  Those opinions fall sharply along party lines, with 68 percent of Republicans disfavoring the bill and 58 percent of Democrats viewing it favorably. Overall, opinions on the bill are split nearly evenly between positive and negative.

The poll is part of a regular series on the Affordable Health Care Act performed and published by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit focused on health care policy and communication.

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