Thursday, February 24, 2011

Most Kentuckians say they don't understand health-reform law

Though parts of the new national health-care law have started to take effect, three out of four Kentucky adults say they don't understand how the new policies will affect them, the Kentucky Health Issues Poll has found. But their lack of information hasn't kept most people from venturing an opinion to pollsters about the law. About half said they don't like it, another quarter do and another quarter didn't know how they felt.

Congress passed the law, formally called the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, in early 2010, after a major push by President Obama and a heated political battle that still rages and has moved to the courts. Some provisions took effect immediately; others are being phased in through 2014.

The poll showed that four of 10 Kentucky Democrats favor the legislation, while just one in 10 Republicans do. But certain components get support from more than 75 percent of Kentuckians, regardless of political affiliation. Most notably, people like the law's small business-tax credits; its guarantee of access to preventive services without having a co-payment; its guarantee of coverage for children with pre-existing conditions; and its closure the Medicare drug-coverage gap, often called the "doughnut hole," which means certain seniors will no longer have to pay the full cost of medications.

The poll was conducted Dec. 3-22 and 27-28 by the Institute for Policy Research at the University of Cincinnati. It interviewed a random sample of 1,677 adults, 1,469 by landline phones and 208 via cell phones. The poll was funded by the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky and The Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati. In 95 of 100 cases, the estimates are accurate within a 2.4 percent margin of error.

Respondents were asked more than 50 questions that covered a range of health-related topics, including financial stresses related to health care; characteristics of their neighborhood (examples: Is it easy to buy fresh produce or ride a bicycle?); degree of civic engagement, such as donation of blood, work on a community project or attendance at a political meeting or rally; how they felt about treatment versus incarceration for substance abusers; using cell phones while driving; health insurance coverage; and smoke-free policy, including a proposed state-wide smoking ban, which found the respondents evenly divided.

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