A common conversation topic around the water cooler here at MGA and elsewhere is health care. While the escalating costs of health care, prescription drugs and health insurance are topics, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) and the U.S. Supreme Court’s favorable ruling on the constitutionality of the law also inspire debate.
Along with discussion about features of PPACA such as consumer rights and protections, and insurance choices and costs, there has been much written about the publics’ perception of the law. So what do Americans think about it?
A number of groups have been tracking public perceptions about PPACA and health care overall such as Gallup and The Commonwealth Fund. But one organization in particular, The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation has been tracking public sentiment for more than two years. What is most interesting about peoples’ reaction to the law is that more than half of Americans don’t have a favorable view of it, but large majorities like many of the law’s features.
In one of its recent polls (Kaiser Health Tracking Poll: July 2012) a plurality of Americans react unfavorably to the law (44 percent) while 38 percent react favorably. During Kaiser Health’s 28 months of tracking reaction to PPACA, a majority of Americans have never had a favorable opinion of the law.
However, a major contradiction of these unfavorable ratings is the fact that large majorities support many of the key elements of the law. For example, Kaiser Health’s July poll shows:
- Two-thirds (67 percent) react favorably knowing the existing Medicaid program will be expanded to cover more low-income, uninsured adults;
- 71 percent are favorable to the creation of health insurance exchanges where small businesses and people who don’t have coverage can shop for insurance and compare prices and benefits; and,
- 70 percent react favorably knowing financial help will be available to low- and moderate-income Americans who don’t get insurance through their jobs to help them purchase coverage.
Other polls have shown that majorities also favor the elimination of lifetime limits, the prohibition of pre-existing condition exclusions, and the provision that young adults can remain on their parents’ insurance up to age 26.
So why this dichotomy in opinion between the law itself and many of its key elements? We at MGA think part of it is the political positioning that occurred before PPACA was passed and signed. Another reason is there has not been a consistent and comprehensive education effort (always needed for something so complex) so that Americans understand that many of the changes in health care they like are the foundation of PPACA. The new federal health care law has become a political football and presented either as the end of health care as you know it or the solution to all that ails health care in America. It’s neither. It is the sum of its parts, and a great beginning.