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POLITICS: PennAve

New health care poll shows broad confusion on eve of roll-out

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Politics,White House,Barack Obama,Obamacare,Republican Party,Health Care,Polls,PennAve,Susan Crabtree

A new Wall Street Journal/NBC poll shows broad confusion over President Obama's health care law on the eve of the roll-out of one of its major provisions.

The poll, released Monday, found that nearly 70 percent of those surveyed said they didn't understand the health care overhaul Congress passed in 2010 or that they only understand part of it. A paltry 31 percent said they thought the new law was a good idea, with 44 percent saying it is a bad idea and 25 percent with no opinion or uncertainty about the law.

The new figures come as the Obama administration begins an outreach effort to promote enrollment in the insurance exchanges, where people can shop for individual insurance plans and apply for subsidies toward the costs of their premium. Enrollment begins Oct. 1, and administration officials view the next six months as critical to raising awareness about the benefits of the law. Actual participation in the insurance exchanges starts Jan. 1.

About 46 million Americans currently don't have health insurance through their employer or a government program such as Medicare and Medicaid.

The new health care overhaul hinges on signing up enough healthy young people to balance seniors and others who have preexisting conditions and are guaranteed coverage under the new law.

But the poll found that among the uninsured, 76 percent of respondents said they didn't understand the law and how it would affect them. Only 32 percent of the uninsured reported that they were “fairly” or “very” likely to use the exchanges. That portion dwindled when it comes to those who already have insurance on the individual market with only 23 percent saying they would use the exchanges.

The numbers show, however, that only the most partisan of respondents, some 25 percent, wanted the health care law to fail, while 51 percent thought lawmakers should do what they can to make the law work as well as possible.

With Republicans limiting government funds available to promote the law, the Obama administration is turning to supporters, celebrities and private companies to try to help promote the law and boost participation.

"The public education campaign kicks off in earnest at the beginning of October -- from staff in community health centers, to public service announcements and outreach efforts, the six months from October to March will be key to raising awareness about the new market places and the benefits of the law for Americans,” a White House official said.

“There have been very relentless efforts underway by opponents of the health law designed to undermine successful education efforts,” the official added. “Some members of Congress have intimidated individuals and organizations willing to help consumers get the facts, others have even suggested they won't answer calls from citizens about the benefits."

Another poll out Monday by USA Today/Pew found a silver lining for the White House: some 63 percent of uninsured Americans plan on getting health insurance in the next six months. That figure is similar to a poll released last month by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation that found that 60 percent of those who are uninsured plan on signing up for health insurance.

The WSJ/NBC survey of 1,000 adults was carried out Sept. 5-8 and has a 3.1 percent margin-of-error.

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Susan Crabtree

White House Correspondent
The Washington Examiner