We have written several posts about the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and how it will impact not only the healthcare and insurance sectors, but State and Federal Government, and consumers and families.  Despite the fact that this initiative will constitute sweeping national changes and high personal impact for millions, the truth is that few Americans actually understand how the ACA will impact them.  When it comes to answering the question What don’t Americans know about the Affordable Care Act?, the answer is “A lot.”

Recent polls conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation have revealed the following troubling gaps in information:

Americans Are Unsure of the ACA Impact

Over 40% of Americans state that the law won’t have much impact on them personally.  However of the plurality that do not anticipate much personal impact 40% of individuals polled by Kaiser expected to be worse off post ACA, 31% expect to be better off, and 19% state that there will be no difference.

Similarly when gauging the impact of ACA on the country as a whole, despite the fact 40% of Americans state that there will be no personal impact, 40% believe the country in totality will be worse off, 31% believe it will be better off, and 20% don’t expect an impact.

ACA education

Americans are Uninformed About Health Insurance Exchanges

The same poll by Kaiser Family Foundation reveals that Americans are uninformed when it comes to Health Insurance Exchanges, a key part of the ACA.  In fact for those who would be potentially most heavily impacted, the uninsured, when asked “How much, if anything, have you heard about this new health insurance marketplace?” the numbers are alarming.

  • 4% say they have heard “a lot” about exchanges
  • 8% say they have heard “some” about exchanges
  • 32% say they have heard “only a little” about exchanges; and
  • 55% say that they have heard “nothing at all” about exchanges

For such a large and costly initiative, one that will impact millions of Americans, the knowledge gap is alarming.  The good news is that there are several Federal and State level programs that are hoping to address this knowledge gap and inform Americans about the exchanges.  The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) recently launched a new website related to the Health Insurance Exchanges which are aimed at improving access and information: www.healthcare.gov   In addition to this, a program referred to as the “Navigator” program has just kicked off with $54 Million dollars in ACA funded grants.  This program effectively allows for “navigators” – people or organizations who can help individuals navigate the healthcare system- to be funded and trained.  States are additionally pitching into the effort with the release of State funded grants for the same program.

In fact more shocking still is that according to another survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation, only about half of Americans know that the ACA is a law

What are the Primary Things Americans Want to Know?

At the top of the list of what Americans are looking to know is what is the “Affordable Care Act”, and “How Does it Apply to Me?”   Followed by “How much will it cost?”  For the time being these questions will continue to loom large for many who are simply uniformed or uninterested when it comes to ACA.  In the future the Government coupled with State level agencies will be releasing a number of ACA publicity campaigns.  Some of the campaigns will be general in nature, while others will focus more on the Health Insurance Exchange Marketplaces and instructions on how to get assistance with enrollment.   With enrollment a necessity for the plan to fully function as intended in a cost efficient manner, public outreach and education will need to be a high priority now and into the future.

Three Steps to Learn More About ACA:

Because the ACA will impact so many individuals and organizations, we believe that everyone can benefit from having a basic knowledge and understanding the Affordable Care Act, how it will impact individuals, and what it will cost. Here are three steps that you can take to learn more about the ACA:

1. Visit the ACA website at www.healthcare.gov

2. Tune to a reputable source such as journalistic broadcast stations and publications, or even websites dedicated to the topic (my favorite is The Kaiser Family Foundation

3. Get a fun, fast overview with this quick six minute video: health reform information