Americans Dislike Health Care Law, Want Congress to Keep it

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More Americans are unaware of some of the health care law’s key components and continue to view it unfavorably, but they still want Congress to keep or expand it, according to an opinion poll released today.

Overall, a majority of the public – 44 percent –  views the Affordable Care Act unfavorably, versus 37 percent who approve of the Democrats’ measure, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s November health tracking poll.

But discontent  is less about the Act itself and more about “general disillusionment with the state of the country and Washington politics,” the report found.

Even though its favorability may not be high, some key individual components of the law are highly popular, even among Republicans. The survey found that the requirement for insurance companies to provide benefit summaries that are easy to understand won the approval of 84 percent of respondents. Tax credits for small businesses were the next most popular aspect of the law, garnering 80 percent support.

There was overwhelming support for subsidies for individuals to buy health insurance, eventually closing the Medicare “doughnut hole” and the requirement that bars insurers from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions.

Most of the people polled said they don’t expect the law to impact their families, but did see more benefits for the poor and the uninsured.

“About half the public thinks the uninsured, those with lower incomes, and those with pre-existing health conditions will be better off under the health reform law, while they are more split as to whether seniors and the country as a whole will do better or worse,” the report stated.

The individual mandate – the provision that requires every American to have health insurance by 2014 – remains deeply unpopular. More than six in ten – or 63 percent - viewed this provision unfavorably, and 43 percent had a “very” unfavorable view.

The individual mandate, the most controversial aspect of the health care law, is headed to the Supreme Court where the nation’s highest-ranking judges will vote on its constitutionality. That decision is expected early next year.

A year and a half after its passage, Americans remain confused about the law, the survey found.

Many are unaware of some key parts of the law, such as the one requiring insurers to present understandable benefit summaries. Fifty percent of those surveyed said that they didn’t know about a provision that eliminates cost-sharing for some services.

Many also think there will be a government-run insurance program that will be offered, and believe in the so-called “death panel” myth – a government panel that will make decisions about people’s end-of-life care, a myth that was widely circulated by opponents of the law last year. The number of people who believe the two exist has remained virtually unchanged since December 2010, according to Kaiser.