Short Takes On News & Events

Those Who Like The Health Law And Those Who Understand The Health Law

By Shefali S. Kulkarni

October 30th, 2012, 9:00 AM

Sure there are those who support the health care law, and those who want to repeal it. But how many people in the U.S. actually understand the Affordable Care Act?

That’s what a Stanford University professor asked in a nationwide survey in collaboration with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, GfK and the Associated Press.

The survey, which was conducted in 2010 and in 2012, showed more than 2,000 participants 18 different statements about the health care law. Twelve of those statements correctly portrayed provisions of the law and six of them were false. Participants were also asked to how certain they were of each of their answers.

Jon Krosnick, a social psychologist and a professor of communication and political science at Stanford University and a co-author of the report on the survey, said no one identified all 18 statements correctly on either the 2010 or the 2012 survey. Still, in 2012, the survey found fairly high numbers of correct responses. For instance, 80 percent of respondents knew that the law allowed adult children to stay on parents’ health plans and that companies with more than 50 employees are required to provide coverage to workers.

But the researchers pointed out that those results were not authoritative since participants may have been guessing. That is why they included the question about the participants’ certainty in their answers. “When taking into account people’s certainty ratings, we observed much lower levels of accurate knowledge…,” they write. “Indeed, only one provision was correctly identified with high certainty as being part of the ACA by a majority of respondents. Fifty-two percent … correctly said with high certainty that children under the age of 26 could get health insurance by being included on their parents’ health insurance policies. All other provisions of the law were correctly identified with high certainty by less than 40 percent of Americans.”

The report also shows that participants’ responses fell within their party lines. Democrats were more knowledgeable about the health care law than Independents, who, in turn, were more knowledgeable than Republicans. Also, older respondents were able to answer the survey more accurately.

But Krosnick said that one of the most striking findings from the survey was that respondents liked the provisions of the health care law regardless of political allegiance.

“When you say: should families be allowed to keep children on their health insurance to age 26? —Most people like most of these provisions. So there’s every reason to have imagined that the public would support [the law]. So our point is that lacking full knowledge [about the health care law] leads to much less enthusiasm about it.”

8 Responses to “Those Who Like The Health Law And Those Who Understand The Health Law”

  1. Chantal Kayitesi says:

    It would be interesting to know how many people can correctly identify statements about the Health Care Law that are inaccurate. Both accurate and inaccurate statements influence acceptability.

  2. KM Meyers says:

    The only reason people like the Health Care Law, is for dependent care to 26 y/o and the birth control mandate. They don’t understand the rest of it, like the medical device tax. They like what will benefit them and ignore what doesn’t benefit them

  3. Weiwen says:

    If you read the article, they asked a mix of true and false statements about the ACA. One of the false statements was the death panels whopper, and a lot of people thought this was in there … thanks for nothing, Sarah Palin, Sen. Grassley et al.

    I like to think I would have got them all correct, but I am a health policy analyst.

  4. True. There are no Death Panels spelled out in the Health Care Law. However, any time a patient has a medical problem that does not fit a popular diagnosis and the Health Care Law dictates the number of tests the physician can order and/or the Medicare patient cannot be referred to another doctor for more tests because the Health Care Law mandates that 2, 3, 10 tests are enough; or the hospital is going to be fined if it readmits the Medicare patient who in the opinion of the physician should be readmitted, and the patient or patients die, the result is the same, no matter what euphemistic term one uses to describe the Board that made the decision that no more tests and no more readmissions are allowed. Death Panels seems to be a fair and equitable term to me. Reality does not seem to be a popular concept when it comes to the Health Care Law and its provisions.

  5. Annee says:

    After the Supreme Court ruled on the ACA, there was a discussion about the health law on an online chronic disease forum I visit. I was surprised to read people’s criticisms and misperceptions.

    There was criticism of the penalty for not having insurance, but a total unawareness that there were exemptions or that lower income folks would be eligible for a subsidy to buy private insurance on state exchanges or eligible for expanded Medicaid.

    There was criticism of its affect on small business, but lack of awareness that businesses w/less than 50 workers weren’t affected by the health law or that employers w/less than 25 full-time employees could be eligible for a tax credit.

    There was criticism that the health law didn’t allow flex spending accounts – IT DOES – but caps FSA contributions at $2,500.

    There was criticism that the health law raised the medical income tax deduction from 7.5% to 10% – but the individual was unaware that a replacement plan to the health law would eliminate the income tax exclusion for employer provided health benefits.

    There was criticism of waivers granted, but lack of awareness they were temporary waivers for employers that provided ‘limited benefit plans’ to part-time and temporary employees – a bridge to 2014, when the state exchanges would become available.

    Another person asked how much would the “copays on the Affordable Care Plan” be – unaware that there is no Affordable Care Plan.

    There is so much misinformation and misunderstanding of the health law, I could see how some would support ‘repealing and replacing’ it — especially since opponents of the health law have not revealed the details of their replacement plan — a replacement plan that would still leave tens of millions of Americans uninsured.

  6. Richard Enyart says:

    Why hasn’t some group published a plain english version of the entire Health Care Law so it can be presented in it’s entirety to the american public?

  7. Annee says:

    Several nonpartisan groups/organizations have published summaries of the health law, which can found on the internet.

    Here’s an April 2011 summary by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

  8. JoAnne says:

    How can anyone know what this law holds for us when so much of it is still not written? As I understand it, there will be groups of unelected bureaucrats filling in the blanks that are all through this legislation.

    I tried reading the bill. There are so many references to other laws that you would have to stop and look up – I don’t know that anyone could produce a copy of it that anyone would truly understand.