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Voters Confused About How Health Care Law Affects Them

By Rebecca Adams, CQ Staff

April 22, 2010 -- The most common feeling among U.S. voters about the massive health care legislation signed into law is "confused," according to a new poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health research organization.

When asked how they felt about the law, 55 percent of survey respondents said they were confused, while 45 percent were pleased and 30 percent were angry. The poll surveyed 1,208 adults two weeks after President Obama signed the legislation in late March.

"People are struggling to understand how the law will affect them and their families and to separate fact from political spin," said Kaiser President and CEO Drew Altman.

The political good news for Democrats who are bracing for losses in the November congressional elections is that a majority of those surveyed expressed support for all 11 provisions listed in the poll that will take effect this year. Republicans joined Democrats and independents in backing nine of the 11 issues.

But the downside for Democrats is that respondents who are registered to vote were equally divided in their opinions about the overall bill, with 44 percent favoring the legislation, 44 percent opposed and 12 percent undecided.

The poll found that political leanings of respondents were a major factor in how they viewed the law, as they have been throughout the debate. About 77 percent of Democrats supported the overall law, compared with 12 percent of Republicans and 37 percent of independents.

When it comes to provisions taking effect this year, the most popular one would provide tax credits to small businesses that cover their workers, with 84 percent of Republicans and 91 percent of Democrats supporting it, the poll found. The least popular provision, which would limit future increases in Medicare provider payments, was supported by 57 percent of all respondents. About 40 percent of Republicans and 70 percent of Democrats supported the lower payments.

Officials at AARP, the advocacy group for seniors, focused on the positive reactions of those surveyed to specific provisions of the law, such as providing additional financial support to help Medicare beneficiaries pay for their prescription drug costs and restricting insurance company practices such as rescinding coverage when people get sick. AARP officials said the confusion revealed by the survey demonstrates why the organization needs to get information to voters that spell out the positive aspects of the law.

"A year of misinformation has left many people unaware about what the law means for them," said Drew Nannis, senior vice president at AARP. "In the coming weeks, months and years, AARP will use every available channel to ensure our members and all older Americans understand exactly what the new law means for them."

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