Fewer U.S. residents understand overhaul benefits than in 2010, poll finds

Topics: Health Policy, Market Trends, Strategy

August 31, 2011

Just 58% of U.S. residents who are expected to gain health insurance coverage under the federal health reform law know that they will have access to financial aid to obtain coverage, compared with 72% who knew of the benefit at this time last year, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s (KFF) latest monthly tracking poll.

The poll also found that uninsured individuals now generally know less about the benefits of the health reform law than a similar poll found in 2010. For example:

  • 47% of respondents in the latest poll said they know that the law expands Medicaid to cover low-income people without children, down from 66% in 2010;
  • 57% know that the government now requires all insurance plans to offer a basic level of benefits, down from 64% in 2010; and
  • 49% believe that health reform will improve conditions for the uninsured, down from 67% in 2010.

Drew Altman, president and CEO of KFF, wrote in an accompanying column, "Experts who have advocated for expanded coverage for decades probably envision the uninsured sitting around the kitchen table anxiously awaiting the implementation of coverage expansions under the [health reform law]."

However, he explained that it does not appear so because most people likely will realize the benefits once the reform law becomes tangible for them, probably two years after the law's coverage expansion takes full effect in 2014. "When there is real insurance coverage available for people who don't have it, they will be more aware of it, and they will be able to render a judgment about whether coverage is affordable for them," Altman added.

The KFF poll also found that public opinion of health reform has dropped slightly over the past year, Politico reports. Thirty-nine percent of those surveyed expressed a favorable view of the law, the first time that the percentage has dipped below 40% since the law's enactment in March 2010. Meanwhile, 44% of respondents said they have an unfavorable view of health reform (Reeve, National Journal, 8/29 [subscription required]; Haberkorn, Politico, 8/29; Baker, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 8/29).