According to a recent poll by Kaiser Health, an astonishing 42% of Americans are unsure whether Obamacare is law or not. Of that number, 19% believed it has actually been overturned or repealed. This is despite the fact that Obama's signature health care reform has now been law for over three years, having had its third anniversary in March this year. This latest finding follows a poll last month which showed that many Americans still remain confused by the actual provisions of the law. Clearly, a lot of Americans remain very confused about the law.
Despite the high number of those who are unsure about the law's passage, the confusion is to an extent understandable given the numerous challenges the law has faced, including a Supreme Court challenge, multiple repeal efforts, and the recent presidential election. The law has also been subject to a widespread and concerted misinformation campaign by opponents. And while the various challenges to the law and the campaign of misinformation may not have been successful in getting the law overturned, they have clearly been successful in confusing Americans.
Those polled were asked which statement came the closest to describing the current status of the health care law. 7% of respondents believed that it has been overturned by the Supreme Court and is no longer law, while 12% believed that it has been repealed by Congress and is no longer law. A further 23% were either unsure about the status of the law or refused to answer the question.
Some of the law's key provisions (including statewide health insurance exchanges and an end to discrimination against Americans with pre-existing conditions by insurance companies) will not go into effect until next year. However, many of important reforms are already in effect and are already having positive a impact on the lives of Americans. The percentage of uninsured young adults in America has dropped from 33.9% in 2010 to 27.9% in 2011, seniors have saved over $6 billion on their prescription drug costs, and coverage to Americans with pre-existing conditions has already been extended.
Despite this progress, misconceptions have persisted. The poll by Kaiser Health in March revealed that a plurality of Americans believe that the law contains a public option, cuts Medicaid benefits, establishes "death panels," and gives health care benefits to undocumented immigrants. A widespread misinformation campaign has helped to fuel such misconceptions, such as in February when Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) designed a report to argue that the law would actually increase the government deficit rather than reduce it, as it is projected to do.
Kaiser's most recent poll found that knowledge about the law and its status tends to fall along class lines, with wealthier Americans more likely to be knowledgeable about the law than those with lower incomes. This knowledge gap is worrying given that many low-income Americans stand to benefit significantly from the law as they become eligible for federal assistance.
This confusion, to a large extent generated by the challenges to the law and the deliberate misinformation campaign, will not make welcome reading for the Obama administration as it tries to educate Americans about the law and its benefits. Furthermore, as the government gears up to implement further provisions of the law next year, confusion and misinformation surrounding the law is likely to persist as opponents continue to challenge it and seek to have it repealed. All the while, many uninsured and low income Americans are unaware of how the law could benefit their lives.