(HealthNewsDigest.com) - As divisions emerge among Republicans over the Tea Party's stop-Obamacare strategy, more Democrats are rallying behind the law, the September Kaiser Health Tracking Pollfinds. Meanwhile, the public sees the media as mainly covering the politics and most have little idea how the law affects them.
With open enrollment for new health insurance marketplaces set to begin Oct. 1, the Foundation's latest poll asked the half of the public who say they don't have enough information about the Affordable Care Act (ACA) what questions they would like to have answered. The top two responses given by the general public and the uninsured were: how much will the law cost me and how is it paid for (19 percent); and can I get an easily digestible summary of what the law is and how it works (18 percent).
Nearly two-thirds of the public - including almost three-quarters of the uninsured - say they don't know when people will be able to begin shopping for health insurance using the new marketplaces. Just 15 percent of the public overall - and 12 percent of the uninsured - are able to correctly answer that the marketplaces will open in October.
A majority of the public (56 percent) says the news media's coverage of the law has been mostly focused on politics and controversies, while very few (6 percent) say coverage has been mostly about how the law will impact people. A third says it's been a balance of the two.
When asked to name a source in the news media that they trust for information about the health care law, more than half (53 percent) say they don't trust any source, while 46 percent say there is at least one news media source they find trustworthy. Cable TV networks top the list of trusted sources, named by 19 percent (including 10 percent who name Fox News and 5 percent who name CNN), followed by broadcast TV news (7 percent) and newspapers (7 percent).
Public Opinion Continues To Split Along Partisan Lines
As has been the case throughout the year, the September tracking poll finds the public is split in its overall view of the law, with 43 percent expressing an unfavorable view and 39 percent holding a favorable view.
Partisan divisions drive these numbers, with most Republicans opposing the law and most Democrats favoring it. The share of Democrats who say they like the law is up eight percentage points this month to 67 percent, rebounding somewhat from a dip that began after the 2012 elections.
Among those with an unfavorable view of the law, a large majority (81 percent, representing 35 percent of the public overall) say the law's opponents should continue their efforts to either repeal the law or stop it from being implemented.
However, a majority (56 percent) of the public overall continues to disapprove of cutting off funding as a strategy for stopping the law from being implemented, including about a third of Republicans (34 percent). The poll was conducted just prior to the House's Sept. 20 vote on a spending bill that stripped out funding for the law.
The poll also illuminates an intensity gap in opposition to the law between Republicans who identify with the Tea Party and those who don't. For example, more than three quarters (78 percent) of Tea Party Republicans say they approve of defunding the health care law, while other Republicans are more split (51 percent approve, 44 percent disapprove). Tea Party Republicans are also more likely than other Republicans to say they don't like the law and want opponents to keep up their efforts to repeal it or stop it from being implemented (77 percent versus 55 percent).
Many Report Problems Accessing Care Due to Cost
As coverage expansions get set to be implemented, more than half the public (57 percent) report putting off or skipping some sort of health care in the past year because of the cost. Most common among these are skipping dental care, relying on home remedies or over-the-counter drugs instead of going to the doctor, and putting off or postponing needed care.
Reports of skipping or delaying care due to cost are more common among the uninsured (83 percent), though the poll finds that having insurance does not eliminate these cost-related concerns, as half (54 percent) of those with coverage say they have delayed or gone without some type of health care in the past year because they couldn't afford it. Those with coverage also report experiencing a variety of problems with their health plans, including misunderstandings over which services the plan covers (20 percent say this has happened in the past two years), their plan not covering a needed service or treatment (20 percent), and problems related to billing or payment (19 percent).
The survey was designed and analyzed by public opinion researchers at the Kaiser Family Foundation and was conducted from Sept. 12-18 among a nationally representative random digit dial telephone sample of 1,503 adults ages 18 and older. Telephone interviews conducted by landline (752) and cell phone (751, including 410 who had no landline telephone) were carried out in English and Spanish. The margin of sampling error for the full sample is plus or minus 3 percentage points. For results based on subgroups, the margin of sampling error may be higher. The full survey methodology can be viewed at: http://www.kff.org/report-section/september-2013-tracking-poll-methodology/.
The Kaiser Family Foundation, a leader in health policy analysis, health journalism and communication, is dedicated to filling the need for trusted, independent information on the major health issues facing our nation and its people. The Foundation is a non-profit private operating foundation, based in Menlo Park, California.
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