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1 in 5 still not sure what to make of health reform

By Maryalene LaPonsie on August 11th, 2012

The U.S. Supreme Court decided the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will stand, but many Americans still don't have a firm opinion of the health reform law, and some mistakenly believe they will have to pay a new tax in 2014.

The July 2012 Kaiser Health Tracking Poll reveals slightly more than half of those surveyed say their mind is made up about the law, while others still aren't sure about their positions.

  • 52 percent say they have made up their mind and are very unlikely to change their position
  • 26 percent say they have made up their mind but could still change their position
  • 20 percent say they haven't decided their opinion on the law yet

Those with an unfavorable opinion of the law were less likely to report the possibility of changing their mind with 69 percent feeling they are firmly in opposition. Only 19 percent of opponents say they may change their mind about the law in the future; another 11 percent with an unfavorable impression say they haven't decided how they feel.

Meanwhile, 36 percent of those with a favorable view of health reform say they could change their minds later. Less than half - 46 percent - of supporters indicate they are unlikely to feel differently about the law in the future.

Health insurance mandate unpopular

One of the most controversial aspects of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is the health insurance mandate slated to go into effect in 2014. At that time, most individuals must obtain medical insurance coverage or pay a financial penalty.

Although the penalty has long been referred to as a fine, the Supreme Court approved the mandate by saying the government had the right to tax those without health insurance coverage. However, regardless of whether it is called a fine or a tax, most Americans remain opposed to the mandate.

When framed as a fine, 66 percent say they oppose the mandate and its penalty. Support increases slightly when the penalty is referenced as a tax, but 6 in 10 remain in opposition to the mandate provision.

The survey did discover that using the word "tax" led more respondents to believe they would have to pay the penalty in 2014. When asked if they would have to pay a tax for failing to have health insurance, 26 percent said yes. When asked if they expected to pay a "fine," only 12 percent answered affirmatively.

In both cases, some respondents may be mistaken. The Kaiser Family Foundation says experts believe only 10 percent of residents will find themselves in the position of choosing between finding health insurance coverage or paying the financial penalty in 2014.

Maryalene LaPonsie
Maryalene LaPonsie has been writing professionally for more than a decade on topics including education, insurance and personal finance. She holds a Bachelor's Degree in Political Science from Western Michigan University.

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