Many Americans Still Confused About Health Care Reform

Lack of understanding linked to rhetoric that preceded the final vote in March, and the complicated nature of existing health-care system.

Not sure what’s in—and not in—the new health-care legislation signed into law by President Barack Obama in March? You’re not alone. More than 2,100 adults were given a list of 18 reform items and asked to identify what’s included and what’s not included in the law. Only four items were correctly identified by the majority of those polled.

Most (about 58 percent) know that the reform package will prohibit insurers from denying coverage to people because they are already sick; 55 percent know the law permits children to stay on their parents’ insurance plan until age 26; and 52 percent realize that people who don’t have insurance will be subject to financial penalties. Additionally, half are aware that employers with more than 50 employees will have to offer their workers affordable insurance.

These are some of the major findings of today’s HealthDay/Harris Poll, conducted between July 15 to 19, 2010 among 2,104 adults (aged 18 and over).

Among other findings: 63 percent of those polled either aren’t sure or don’t know if the new law will increase the number of people eligible for Medicaid, (it will); 79 percent don’t know or aren’t sure if drug companies will pay an annual fee, (they will); 73 percent don’t know the law establishes a new tax on the sale of medical devices; 66 percent don’t know or aren’t sure if the legislation will result in insurance exchanges where people can shop for insurance, (it will); and about 82 percent think the bill will result in rationing of health care, or aren’t sure if it will. (It won’t).

“The problem for the (Obama) administration is health-care reform is fiendishly complicated because the health-care system is fiendishly complicated” said Humphrey Taylor, chairman of the Harris Poll, Harris Interactive’s long-running public opinion poll. Another cause of the confusion is due to the long and heated political debate that surrounded the bill before it was passed, Taylor said.

“It seems people are still reacting to the rhetoric, not the substance of what is in the bill, because they don’t actually know what is or is not in the actual legislation.”

The complete findings of this joint Harris Interactive/HealthDay health-care reform poll are illuminating. Read the full report for all the details of the poll. HealthDay’s news report is available here. Full data on the poll and its methodology are available at Harris Interactive.

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