Thursday, February 24, 2011


There's some concern being expressed about this Kaiser Family Foundation poll:

In the wake of the health reform repeal vote in the U.S. House and the ongoing legal challenges over the individual mandate, nearly half the country either believes that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) has been repealed and is no longer law (22 percent) or doesn't know enough to say whether it is still law (26 percent). Roughly half of Americans (52 percent) accurately report that the ACA is still the law of the land.

Joan McCarter makes a couple of salient points:

It's ... possible, Drew Altman, president and CEO of the Kaiser Family Foundation, says, "There may be some partisan wishful thinking going on. Thirty percent of Republicans think the law has been repealed while only 12 percent of Democrats do. But overall, it is obvious that the knowledge of basic civics is pretty low. Maybe it's because 'Schoolhouse Rock' is no longer airing on Saturday morning TV explaining how government works."

What they do see on TV? As Jed Lewison and Steve Benen both point out, they see stories about judges overturning the law, and far less coverage of either the decisions upholding it, or the new provisions of it being implemented.

True -- though I think there's another possible reason buried in the PDF of results:

In the February survey, Americans were asked whether they and their family "have personally benefited from the health reform law”, and whether they had "been negatively affected" by the same. Overall, 14 percent say they have benefited in some way thus far, with the most commonly offered experiences being improved access to care or coverage, the ability to keep grown children on the family insurance plan, and reduced costs. At the same time, 17 percent say they have been negatively affected. Increased costs were by far the most commonly cited issue, followed by reduced benefits or choices and an inability to get or keep insurance.

So there you go: less than a third of the country has detected any impact from the law. And only 14% have notice any benefit. The damn thing is easy to attack -- and caricature -- because the rollout is (perhaps inevitably) so damn slow.

And, in fact, many of the people who say they've been negatively affected by the law can't really even offer a concrete example of how. The Kaiser PDF lists eight statements from survey respondents who said the law had harmed them. Here are five of them:

"Financially the middle class will not be able to afford the insurance."

"It is going to cost the taxpayers more money. It was passed...and people didn’t get a chance to read it."

"Because of our income, we are being strangled with paying for everyone else. Middle America will not exist under these conditions."

"I don't like someone telling me I have to do this."

"Whenever the government controls anything, people get affected negatively. Government should stay out of it and not have control over it."

These aren't accounts of personal experiences -- they're regurgitations of memorized right-wing spin.

I think the law is just invisible to a lot of people who might eventually benefit from it -- except to right-wingers, for whom it's a highly visible monster under the bed.

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