Poll Finds Most Unaware of Tuesday Opening of Health Insurance Marketplaces

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

A new poll finds a majority of the public — especially those lacking health coverage — is unaware that new insurance marketplaces created by the health law are slated to open this week. The poll also found deep skepticism of media coverage of the law, with more than half the public saying they don’t trust any media source to provide credible information.

Two-thirds of the public were not aware when the new online marketplaces open to allow people without employer coverage to shop and purchase their own health policies, according to the poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation. (KHN is an editorially independent program of the foundation.) These exchanges open Tuesday. Despite outreach efforts by the Obama administration and supporters of the law, the poll found the number of uninsured unaware of the opening date is even greater than the public at large, with three out of every four not knowing the marketplaces are supposed to open in October.

The poll found that 56 percent of those polled believe media coverage has mostly focused on politics and controversies surrounding the law, while only 6 percent thought the coverage concentrated on how the law might impact people. Another 33 percent said coverage balanced both substance and politics.

The poll found that 53 percent of those polled said they did not have a single newspaper, magazine TV or radio show they trusted to provide reliable information about the law. Those that did have a reliable source of information were mostly likely to cite cable television, particularly Fox News. A total of 19 percent of people said they trust cable TV the most, while only 7 percent said they trust newspapers and 4 percent trusted public radio or TV.

Among specific news outlets, 10 percent said they trust Fox, 5 percent trust CNN, 3 percent trust public radio including NPR, 2 percent trust the New York Times, 2 percent trust MSNBC and 1 percent trust the Wall Street Journal.

Slightly over half of those polled said they do not have enough information about the law to understand it. Of those, 19 percent said they wanted to know how the law was funded and what they would have to pay. Another 18 percent said they wanted someone to explain the law in a simple, concise way. Among the specific questions the pollsters said people told them they wanted answered were: “Will this medical insurance be free or will I have to pay?”, “Can you just put it in plain laymen language so we can understand what you’re doing for us?” and “What happens if we’re unable to afford it? I’ve heard we can go to jail.”

The public view of the law, which KFF has been tracking since it passed in 2010, remains consistently divided, with 43 percent disliking it and 39 percent favoring it. Democratic enthusiasm about the law, which has wavered over the months, has crept up a bit, and now two-thirds of Democrats say they like it.

A third of those polled wants opponents of the law to continue trying to thwart or repeal it. The poll found Republicans who identified with the tea party movement tended to dislike the law more strongly than other Republicans. Nearly four of five tea party Republicans favor cutting off funding for the law to stop it from taking effect, something that half of other Republicans support.

The poll surveyed 1,503 adults between Sept. 12 and 18, and it has a margin of error of +/- 3 percentage points.

Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan health policy research and communications organization not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.