Most Americans Don’t Understand Affordable Care Act

Tuesday, October 15, 2013
(graphic: San Jose Public Library)

Three years after Congress adopted President Barack Obama’s much debated healthcare reform law, a majority of Americans still don’t understand what it is or what it does, according to recent polling.


One survey, conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, found that 64% of respondents had no idea that the insurance exchanges allowing people to buy health coverage were already operating—even though the October 1 launch was repeatedly discussed in the news both before and after this date.


The Kaiser foundation poll also revealed the degree to which many Americans have been misinformed about the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which opponents have consistently labeled Obamacare. More than 40% said that the ACA provides subsidies to undocumented immigrants to buy health insurance, establishes something resembling a death panel, and reduces benefits for seniors currently enrolled in Medicare—none of which are true.


In addition, a Public Policy Polling survey showed that 27% of Americans—including 47% of African-Americans–didn’t know that Obamacare and ACA are the same thing.


Meanwhile, a recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll found that 76% of uninsured people “didn’t understand the law and how it would affect them.” It also revealed that only 51% of respondents knew that the insurance exchanges were in operation, and less than half (49%) were aware of the subsidies available for low-income people.


“The genuinely shocking degree of public ignorance regarding the ACA that has been revealed by this slew of recent polls, more than three years after the law was signed by President Obama, should not be something to which we respond by simply shaking our heads and lamenting that the American people are so ‘disengaged,’” Justin Doolittle wrote at Truthout.


“No, this ought to be viewed as a very serious political crisis and a grave threat to whatever semblance of health our badly disfigured democratic culture still maintains,” he added.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

The American Public's Shocking Lack of Policy Knowledge is a Threat to Progress and Democracy (by Justin Doolittle, Truthout)

Approval of Obama Remains Consistent, Americans Blame Congress (Public Policy Polling)

Six of One - Obamacare vs. The Affordable Care Act (Jimmy Kimmel)

What is the Individual Mandate and when will it Take Effect? (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


notanonamouse 5 years ago
You're right, I don't understand it. I don't understand what insurance has to do with healthcare. Insurance and healthcare are inherently conflicted. Insurance adds a layer of bureaucratic expense and complexity to the process that is neither germane nor productive. It makes healthcare first and foremost a business proposition. Furthermore, it makes healthcare unaffordable for almost everyone because the "deep pockets" of the insurers enable high prices. Remember, before health insurance became de rigueur as a corporate perk (back in the '70s), doctors made house calls and middle class families could afford them. Then, public hospitals ranged from decent to excellent (after being shot, JFK was taken to one), and the poor were attended to. Hardline Republicans hated that system, which should tell you something. Now, we have a system only a Republican could love --- that should tell you something, too. "Obamacare" enshrines the worst of all possible healthcare systems as the law of the land, probably for decades to come. Expect costs to continue to rise as there is no natural restraining mechanism other than the corporately controlled government. Expect quality to continue to fall because insurance companies require ever rising profits to please shareholders and that means continual cost-cutting. Expect our two-tier system to flourish: expensive but high quality care outside the system, sweatshop HMOs for everyone else. The wealthy will get personal care; you and I will get a bottle of pills (the cheapest form of healthcare). On the other hand, eliminate insurance and the price of health care collapses. Would that be an entirely bad thing?

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