It’s no secret that Americans don’t know much about politics: according to one source, less than half of those tested on basic U.S. politics could name the three branches of the government (AmericanCivicLiteracy). According to a study Affordable Care act by the Kaiser Family Foundation, this embarrassing claim is more than true. The study suggests that Americans are woefully unaware of the status and details of the highly controversial Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
The Affordable Care Act, or ACA, was signed into law on March 23, 2010 after considerable debate. The issue of health care was big during the 2008 Presidential Campaign, and future President Obama listed universal health care as a high priority. Work on health care reform started in 2009, and it eventually made it through
the Senate, the House, and into the law books (HealthCareReform).
The Affordable Care Act targets several constituencies, including young adults, seniors, and those with pre-existing conditions. The law offers options for all of these demographics to aid them in getting and keeping affordable health insurance. For example, the Consumer Assistance Program is meant to aid those who have trouble finding insurance based on what state they live in.
The many changes of the Affordable Care Act are designed to take effect in waves. Several changes, including coverage for young adults under their parents’ plans and improved preventative health coverage, have already taken effect. Other changes are scheduled for 2014 and 2015.
Even though the American public is already benefiting from the Affordable Care Act, Keiser suggests that many people don’t even know the law passed. According to the poll, 42% of Americans do not know that the Affordable Care Act is, in fact, a law; 12% of those people apparently believe the law was repealed by Congress, while another 23% did not know enough to comment further.
Even those who are aware of the legal status of the Affordable Care Act haven’t read up much on what the law meant for them. 49% of those polled admitted that they weren’t sure how the law would affect them or their families. 40% of people said they got their information on the law from acquaintances or family members; only 9% bothered to get their information from Federal sources, like the Affordable Care Act Website.
Even worse, the least informed are also those most in need of help. The poll showed that 58% of uninsured and 56% of low-income households did not understand how the law could benefit them.
Regardless of where the information (or lack thereof) came from, the study revealed that Americans in general have mixed opinions on the law. Only 6-9% reported hearing mostly good things about the Affordable Health Care act, and 61-65% said they heard a mix of negative and positive opinions.
Public officials are as divided as the American public where the Affordable Care Act is concerned, partially because of the hassle of implementing new parts of the law each year. Some problems were also built into active parts of the Affordable Care Act. One of the more complex parts of the act was the process of applying for insurance through the program. This process was recently amended to a more user-friendly version that requests minimal information instead of a full medical history.
“The challenge is that… setting up… an online marketplace where you can go on and sign up and figure out what kind of insurance you can afford and figuring out how to get the subsidies, that’s still a big complicated piece of business,” Obama commented regarding the changes. “But having said all that, we’ve got a great team in place. We are pushing very hard to make sure that we’re hitting all the deadlines and the benchmarks.”
President Obama also says that this issue limited to the uninsured, and that for the majority of Americans the Affordable Care Act is being implemented smoothly. “For the 85 to 90 percent of Americans who already have health insurance, this thing’s already happened, and their only impact is that their insurance is stronger, better, more secure than it was before,” he told reporters on April 30 (ABC). It remains to be seen whether pubic opinion – or even awareness –will follow.