At his press conference earlier today, Barack Obama said that most Americans are benefiting from the Affordable Care Act, even if they don't know it. He's definitely right about the not knowing it part. Not only are most Americans painfully ignorant of the law's effects, even on their own lives, more than 40 percent of them aren't even sure if it's still a law.
According to a new Kaiser Family Foundation poll, 23 percent Americans have no clue about the current legal status of Obamacare and another 19 percent think it doesn't even exist anymore. And maybe those Americans can be forgiven for believing Congress repealed the law, since the Republican-controlled House of Representatives has voted 36 times to do exactly that. (Those legal scholars may have forgotten that the Senate has to vote on things, too.) But what about the 7 percent of those polled who think the law was struck down by the Supreme Court? Those people were apparently aware of one of the most talked about news stories of all of last year, but got the gist of it completely, 100 percent backwards.
Even those people who are aware of the law know very little about it. One reason, of course, is that the implementation was delayed until next year, so those who aren't currently covered by health insurance haven't had a chance to take advantage yet. Sadly, the people who need Obamacare the most are the ones who are least informed. A similar poll taken last year found that more than 80 percent of those likely to qualify for the Medicaid expansion built into the law were unaware that it would even be an option.
The good news for the president is that he still has time to educate these people. The new health care options offered under the bill won't kick in until 2014, and the administration is still working on streamlining the process. (The president also talked today about reducing the application form from a ridiculous 21 pages down to three.) The bad news is it won't be easy to counter all the misinformation, or let people know what they need to know at the right time. Explain the process too soon, and people will forget when the time comes; wait too long, and the uninsured could miss the boat on their best options. The information campaign probably won't be the nightmare that the law's opponents are predicting, but it hasn't exactly been smooth sailing so far.