Kaiser Foundation Poll Finds Confusion Over ACA Abounds With Open Enrollment Six Months Away

With just six months left before open enrollment begins for health benefit exchanges across the country, the results of the latest Kaiser Family Foundation tracking poll paint a grim picture in terms of public understanding of the Affordable Care Act. 42% don’t know that it’s still law (or refused to answer). That figure includes 12 % who believe the law was repealed by

Congress and 7% who believe it was overturned by the Supreme Court. Over half of the low-income (56%) and uninsured (58%) populations respectively say they lack enough information to understand how their families will be impacted suggesting navigators and in-person assisters will have their work cut out for them this summer.

Americans are most commonly getting their information from friends and family (40%). Other common sources were “newspapers, radio news or other online news sources” (36%), and cable news (30%). 9% cited state or federal sources respectively and 10% cited doctors, employers or non-profit organizations.

The Washington Post’s Sarah Kliff considers the Administration’s dilemma of educating the public at just the right time:

The challenge that the Obama administration faces is more complex than just increasing awareness and improving public awareness. It has a lot to do with improving knowledge at the exact right time—not when benefits are way out in the distance, but also not when the public has passed them by.

Consider what would happen if the Obama administration ramped up its public education effort today. There would television ads, door-to-door campaigns, celebrity endorsements and a slew of other commitments. They would all advertise new health care options—which wouldn’t be available for another seven months.

When I’ve talked to health care advocates, this is a dilemma they talk about a lot. They certainly want more people to know about the law, but at the same time they don’t want to sell a product that won’t be on the market until the end of the year. Open enrollment on the exchanges begins in October for health plan options that will kick in on Jan. 1, 2014.

That’s why Enroll America will wait until this summer or fall to kick off its public awareness campaign. The White House has looked at getting rolling in June. This means that public awareness will probably stay low for the next few months. And health law supporters might be okay with that: They’d rather come to customers with a product to sell, rather than turn up with nothing to offer.