Politics
8:00 am
Thu January 30, 2014

Poll: Kentuckians Lack Information About Affordable Care Act as Favorability Declines

A large majority of insured and uninsured Kentuckians say they still lack the necessary information about the Affordable Care Act to determine its impact on them.

And a declining number of residents view the federal overhaul favorably compared to two years ago.

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That's according to a new Kentucky Health Issues Poll released Thursday, which comes out in the midst of Governor Steve Beshear receiving praise from President Obama over the state's rollout at this week's State of the Union address.

Thus far state officials report over 182,000 people have signed up for either Medicaid or a private insurance plan.

But almost four years after its passage many residents say they don't know enough about the law to determine how it will effect their personal lives.

Uninsured adults were the least informed group about the reforms with 68 percent saying they didn't know enough about how changes to the health care system would impact them personally. A little more than half of Kentuckians with insurance said the same thing.

Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky President and CEO Dr. Susan Zepeda says this indicates more work needs to be done to educate residents about the law when compared to state support for key provisions.

"It's hard for us to understand what is happening here in Kentucky because as you recall when we asked Kentuckians their view about Medicaid expansion, which was made possible under the Affordable Care Act they strongly strongly supported that," she says. "So to combine that with this information of them not feeling favorable towards the act itself suggests one of the culprits may be a lack of information about what the affordable care law includes and what it means."

"We were particularly troubled at the numbers of low-income Kentuckians who stand to benefit most from the Medicaid expansion who still feel they don't know enough about the law."

The survey was conducted in October 2013 as the state's health exchange was being launched.

Obama described the governor as "a man possessed" in terms of Beshear's committment to getting Kentucky residents covered.

Like many Democrats, Beshear has complained of "misinformation" being spread about the law by its opponents. In other interviews the governor has laid blame at the feet of Republican Senators Rand Paul and Mitch McConnell directly.

But GOP critics argue national disapproval of the law and stiff arms from Democratic Senate candidates such as Alison Lundergan Grimes reflects more than just online hiccups and ignorance about its provisions.

Just 30 percent of Kentuckians reported having a favorable view of the president's health care law, according to KHIP survey. That's down from 34 percent two years ago.

And when asked how health care reform is affecting them and their families, only 7 percent of Kentuckians reported a positive impact. Three times as many described it having a negative impact while 66 percent said it had none on them or their family.

"President Obama and Governor Beshear can keep telling Americans to 'get over it' if they don’t like this law, but sooner or later they’re going to have to come to terms with reality," McConnell said on the Senate floor this week. "They’re going to have to accept that Obamacare just hasn’t worked like the administration promised—in Kentucky, and across America—and that it’s time to start over with real reform."

The foundation's polling has shown bipartisan support in Kentucky for key provisions in the law such as prohibiting the use of pre-existing conditions to deny coverage, allowing children to stay on their parents health insurance until turning age 26 and barring insurance companies from setting lifetime limits on what to spend for a person's coverage.

Democrats are hoping the reported high rate of enrollees will change much of the public's opinion, particularly ahead of McConnell's re-election bid. But with Kentucky's approval of the law going in the opposite direction its political unpopularity appears inescapable.

"It feels like, frankly, a branding issue," says Zepeda. "Whether you call it the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare, it's such a polarizing issue to Kentuckians that it trumps content. Each time we've polled over the past few years about specific elements of the law as they've come online people have responded by telling us they feel more favorably when they know about that provision."

"So they're attracted to some of the things that the Affordable Care Act is trying to accomplish, but they definitely do not respond to the brand if you will of the Affordable Care Act."

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