The U.S. public’s views on health reform — the Affordable Care Act (ACT) – remain fairly negative, although the percent of people feeling favorably toward it increased from 34% to 37% between October and November. Still, that represents a low from the 50% who favored the law back in July 2010. It’s quite possible that American health citizens’ views on health reform are largely reflective of their more general feelings about the direction of the country and what’s going on in Washington right now, versus what’s specifically embodied in the health care law, according to the November 2011 Kaiser Health Tracking Poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

There continues to be misinformation and lack of understanding about the specific components included in the ACA. At least one-fourth of Americans polled did not know that the law provides for no cost-sharing for preventive services (50% said this was not part of the law), guaranteed issue (31% said not included), easy-to-read plan summaries (33% were not aware of this), and subsidy assistance to individuals (30% of people unaware).

Once the various elements of the health plan were explained in the poll, as listed in the chart, the public-at-large has favorable views on many of them. The most popularly embraced aspects of health reform, across all parties, are the required summaries of health plans which will bring much-needed transparency to health plan “shopping;” guaranteed issue, closing the Medicare doughnut hole, tax credits for small business, subsidies for people who need financial assistance in purchasing health insurance, the ability to appeal health plan decisions, and no cost-sharing for preventive services. The least-favored aspect of the ACA is the individual mandate, with a huge chasm between the 53% of Democrats who favor the mandate, and the small proportion of 17% of Republicans who like it.

The Poll was conducted November 10-15, 2011, among 1,209 adults age 18 and over by telephone, in English and Spanish.

Health Populi’s Hot Points: Most people told Kaiser Family Foundation that they haven’t seen much in the news lately about the Affordable Care Act, which may be another reason why 44% of people said they feel unfavorable to the law because of their more general feelings about the direction of the country and what’s happening “right now” in Washington. With a stalled economy, unemployment stuck at 9-10% in much of the country, and a failed Super Committee effort to deal with the deficit, Americans are left in limbo by their politicians and macroeconomy. Still, one-half would like to expand the law or keep it as-is, with 39% saying it should be repealed and 11% not sure. These proportions have been fairly steady since January 2011.

55% of people say they don’t feel they have enough information about the law to understand how it will impact them personally. This is an opportunity for proponents of the ACA’s tenets to communicate more clearly how the specifics of the law will impact real people on the street, where they live and work. The fact that 50% of people were unaware that the ACA covers preventive care with no co-pay, for example, would go far in the minds of everyday people — especially those who delay getting preventive services due to the co-pays and out-of-pocket costs involved for undergoing such tests and visits.