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Kaiser Health Tracking Poll — November 2011

The November Health Tracking Poll takes a closer look at public opinion and knowledge about specific provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). Findings include:

  • After taking a negative turn in October, the public’s overall views on the ACA returned to a more mixed status this month. Still, Americans remain somewhat more likely to have an unfavorable view of the law (44%) than a favorable one (37%).
  • The survey also finds that individual elements of the law are viewed favorably by a majority of the public. The law’s most popular element, viewed favorably by more than eight in ten (84%) and “very” favorably by six in ten, is the requirement that health plans provide easy-to-understand benefit summaries. Also extremely popular are provisions that would award tax credits for small businesses (80% favorable, including 45% very favorable) and provide subsidies to help some individuals buy coverage (75% favorable, including 44% very favorable), as well as the provision that would gradually close the Medicare doughnut hole (74% favorable, including 46% very favorable) and the “guaranteed issue” requirement that prohibits health plans from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions (67% favorable, including 47% “very” favorable).
  • Despite strongly partisan reaction to the law overall, many of its provisions are popular among Democrats, Republicans, and independents alike. The elements of the law with the highest levels of bipartisan support include requiring plans to publish easy-to-understand summaries (88% of Democrats, 87% of independents, and 76% of Republicans favorable), tax credits to small businesses (88%, 77%, and 73%, respectively), and allowing individuals to appeal their health plans’ decisions to an independent reviewer (82%, 70%, and 70%, respectively).
  • Far and away the least popular element of the health reform law is the individual mandate, the requirement that individuals obtain health insurance or pay a fine. More than six in ten (63%) Americans view this provision unfavorably, including more than four in ten (43%) who have a “very” unfavorable view.
  • More than a year and half after health reform was enacted, there is much about the law that the public still does not know, including some of its more popular elements. For example, about four in ten (42%) are unaware of the law’s most popular provision, requiring health plans to produce straightforward benefits summaries. The least well-known provisions — eliminating cost-sharing for preventive services and the medical loss ratio requirement, which fewer than four in ten recognize as being included in the law — are each favored by at least six in ten people, including a third who see each as “very” favorable.
  • Substantial shares also incorrectly believe the law does two specific things that it does not. For instance, more than half (56%) think the law includes a new government-run insurance plan to be offered along with private plans (while another 13% don’t know if the law does this). And a third (35%) think the law allows a government panel to make decisions about end-of-life care for people on Medicare (with another 12% saying they don’t know). Those numbers have changed little in the past year.

The November poll is the latest in a series designed and analyzed by the Foundation’s public opinion research team.

Findings (.pdf)

Chartpack (.pdf)

Toplines (.pdf)