The latest Kaiser Health Tracking Poll finds that even after most of the ACA’s major provisions took effect on January 1, a large majority of the public (62 percent) continues to believe that only “some” provisions of the ACA have been put into place thus far. Only about one in five (19 percent) say “most” or “all” provisions have been implemented, up somewhat from 9 percent last March.It's an old story. The public is aware of the stuff that gets the most ink in the traditional media and that's the negative stuff; the mandate because Republicans have been hammering on it for four years, and the exchanges because the dominated news coverage all fall because HealthCare.gov was so screwed up. In this poll, 56 percent of people report that they've only seen stories about the controversies and the politics of the law, not the substance. Additionally, "about half the public (47 percent) reports hearing at least one story in the last month about an individual or family who was impacted by the law, with about twice as many saying they saw more stories about people being harmed (27 percent) as saying they saw more stories about people being helped (13 percent)."
When it comes to the individual elements of the law, awareness has increased slightly for two of the big ones: the individual mandate (81 percent now say it is part of the law, up from 74 percent last March) and the health insurance exchanges (68 percent, up from 58 percent). Still, large shares of the public–and even higher shares of the uninsured–remain unaware of some other major provisions of the law. For example, roughly four in ten adults overall, and about half of the uninsured, are not aware that the law provides financial help to low- and moderate-income Americans to help them purchase coverage, gives states the options of expanding their Medicaid programs, and prohibits insurance companies from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions.
The failure of the traditional media to report on the substance of what this law can do to help people means that the majority of the people who really need the help don't know that it's out there! Though KFF doesn't give breakdowns by geography, it's a good bet that most of those who lack this awareness are in the 36 states on the federal exchange and have seen a concerted effort to advertise the law that we've seen in the states that created their own exchanges and have enthusiastically embraced the new law.
Consistent with months and months worth of KFF polling, though, while the law still isn't popular the large majority of people—55 percent—want Congress to improve the law, not repeal it. That's continuing bad news for Republicans, who's latest plan would completely scrap the existing law. There's no interest at all in the public for that. Even 30 percent of those who have negative opinions about the law agree that it needs to be improved, not repealed.