Confusion (still) reigns

CONFUSION (STILL) REIGNS…. It’s been about a month since the Affordable Care Act became law, and many political observers have been keeping an eye on the polls, watching to see if the breakthrough changed public perceptions. So far, there hasn’t been much movement — support has grown a bit, but opponents are still in the plurality.

For Democrats, the hope has long been that success would start paying greater dividends when the public grew less confused about the details. That trend has yet to begin in earnest, though, because people are still confused about the details.

The latest report from the Kaiser Family Foundation showed 46% of respondents have a favorable opinion of the ACA, while 40% have an unfavorable view. That’s not bad, but the results are pretty partisan — Dems like it, Republicans don’t — and the largest single group (30%) were those who have a “very unfavorable” view.

Chris Cillizza noted, meanwhile, that the same problem that has undermined the debate for a year still exists: the public still doesn’t understand the proposal or its merits.

Majorities of Americans described themselves as “confused” about the new health care bill and acknowledge they don’t have enough information about it to grasp how it will affect their lives, according to a new poll conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation.
The numbers — 55 percent of those tested expressed confusion about the law while 56 percent didn’t know what impact it would have on them — suggest that President Obama and his administration have their work cut out for them in the run-up to the midterm elections.

Perhaps, but it also suggests the numbers are malleable. Many of the Americans who have a negative impression of the new law don’t necessarily know what it is they don’t like. More information — and an effective sales job — is likely to translate to more favorable opinions.

Indeed, many of the benefits of the new that will kick in this year continue to be very popular.

More than eight in ten people support tax credits for small companies who offer coverage to their employees (86 percent), back the idea of making it harder for insurance companies to drop you when a major medical problem occurs (81 percent) and like the idea of barring health plans from charging a co-pay for basic services (82 percent).

This will continue to matter through the campaign season, as Democrats point to these benefits as the kind of provisions that need to be protected from Republicans who intend to repeal the entire legislative package. When it comes to the policy landscape, and health care policy in particular, eight in 10 Americans don’t agree on much, but they’re already on board with some of the new law’s key measures. The more they become the focus of political debate, the better it is for Dems.