Most Americans Still Have No Idea What the Health Care Law Does The Affordable Care Act Is Still a Mystery To Most Americans

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Most Americans Still Have No Idea What the Health Care Law Does The Affordable Care Act Is Still a Mystery To Most Americans Most Americans Still Have No Idea What the Health Care Law Does The Affordable Care Act Is Still a Mystery To Most Americans
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Most Americans Still Have No Idea What the Health Care Law Does The Affordable Care Act Is Still a Mystery To Most Americans

by Nona Willis Aronowitz

August 30, 2011

It's now been more than a year since President Obama signed the much-debated—and much-maligned—Affordable Care Act, and even longer since the details of the bill dominated the airwaves. It seems all that time has taken a toll on our memories. A new poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation found that the number of Americans who understand what's in the health care bill is declining. 

The Hill points out that last summer, 72 percent of people polled were aware that the new law will provide financial assistance to people who must buy insurance on their own, rather than getting it from an employer. Now, that number is down to 58 percent. While two-thirds of respondents last year knew the law expands Medicaid, fewer than half know that now. Just 29 percent knew that the law eliminates copays for some preventive services, and half said the law did not provide that benefit—despite the Department of Health's recent announcement that it would require plans to make birth control and other womens health services copay-free.

This is what happens when sweeping legislation takes years to be enacted; most provisions of the health care bill won't take effect until 2014, though some have already taken effect. But major parts of the bill, like the individual mandate or the elimination of annual limits for insurance coverage, are still years away from being put into practice.

Given this astounding gap, can you blame people for hating "Obamacare" when all they hear about is the president getting sued for the law being unconstitutional, or businesses planning to drop coverage from their plans? Nancy Pelosi may have gotten a lot of heat for saying "we have to pass the bill so you can find out what is in it," but it turns out she's right. We won't be able to judge public opinion on the Affordable Care Act until Americans tangibly feel its effect.

Meanwhile, if you need a refresher on what the health care bill does, the government has a useful timeline and the Kaiser Foundation has a pretty thorough explainer (pdf). For an even more abridged summary, check out this very cute video.

photo (cc) by Flickr user FibonacciBlue

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