Wednesday, November 2, 2011

ACA support wanes - this month, anyway

It seems as though we've seen support for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) wax and wane, over and over again, since before it was even passed. The latest survey, from Kaiser Health News (KHN), appears to fall into the waning category. This is the first time, according to KHN, that the number of  respondents that believe the law won’t make the country better off outnumber those who believe it will.

KHN blames a drop in support by Democrats for the change. Seventy-eight percent of Democrats polled supported the law in March 2010, when the ACA became law, and by October 2011, only 52% did. Furthermore, in October of this year, only 27% of Democrats polled said that they thought the ACA would actually improve their lives, a drop from 43% in September. What a difference a month makes. From what I can see on a monthly graph on the KHN press release, it looks to me as though the number of people who hold a favorable view of the ACA has careened up and down in 2010 and 2011, and there's no question that unfavorable responses hit an all-time high in October of this year, at 51%, although unfavorable responses hit 50% in January 2011.

Is it possible that the negative results for October can be traced to the fact that many employees get information in October about upcoming November open enrollment options? Premiums have continued to skyrocket, and many employees may be under the impression that the ACA has something to do with that, although many provisions aren't kicking in until January of 2012. It's been over a year since the law was passed, and many Americans may not feel any real effects of the ACA until it's time for them to opt to participate in the newly-created state exchanges. The average employee may be unaware of the various ACA timetables, and, in fact, the KHN survey shows that many Americans don’t know enough about the Massachusetts healthcare law, and its similarity to the ACA, to even offer an assessment, which could demonstrate a generally lack of familiarity with healthcare reform specifics.

In fact, KHN states that Democrats had hoped that when certain ACA provisions, such as letting dependent children remain on their parents’ insurance policies until age 26, and giving some Medicare recipients more financial assistance in buying prescription drugs, took effect only months after passage of the law, voters would would remain optimistic. The ACA's major provisions, however, such as making sure that all Americans are allowed to purchase affordable insurance despite any pre-existing conditions, won’t kick in until 2014, which, KHN points out, is more than a year after next year’s presidential election.


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