NPR Story
2:21 pm
Tue December 3, 2013

Many Young Americans Still Unfamiliar With Health Law

Originally published on Tue December 3, 2013 3:19 pm

A new Gallup poll reveals that 37 percent of American adults under 30 years old are unfamiliar with the Affordable Care Act.

The poll also found that people with lower incomes — who are more likely to be uninsured — are less familiar with the health care law than those with higher incomes.

The law is most likely to affect young Americans and people with lower incomes, both who apparently remain less familiar with the law than others.

Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson gets details on the poll from Gallup editor-in-chief Frank Newport.

Guest

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Transcript

JEREMY HOBSON, HOST:

It's HERE AND NOW, and as I mentioned a moment ago, one of the key points that comes up over and over again when we talk about the Affordable Care Act is that it is crucial that young, healthy people sign up for insurance through the new exchanges because otherwise costs will go up for everyone.

So it may alarm you to hear that a new poll finds Americans under 30 know the least about the Affordable Care Act. The poll is from Gallup, and it says 37 percent of people under 30 are unfamiliar with the health care law. Frank Newport is editor-in-chief of Gallup, and he's with us now from NPR in Washington. Hi Frank.

FRANK NEWPORT: Hello, Jeremy.

HOBSON: Well, how does that 37 percent compare with other age groups?

NEWPORT: Well, it's the highest unfamiliar of any age group, which is quite interesting. As you say, it's the young people who are a clear target of this act, so ideally for proponents of the act they would know most about it. Sixty-five-pluses, only a quarter, 25 percent, say they're not familiar with the act, and of course they're basically irrelevant to the act because they are...

HOBSON: Because they're on Medicare.

NEWPORT: Absolutely. So clearly it's young people who know least about it. And I have to say perhaps in their defense when we at Gallup had tested on their general attention they pay to news in general, they're also the lowest. So 18 to 29s are hard to grab hold of mentally for any kind of a topic, but it doesn't really matter for proponents of the act. If they're not paying attention to it, presumably they're less likely to get involved and buy insurance, which as you say is what they're supposed to do.

HOBSON: And how does the 37 percent compare to before the rollout of heathcare.gov in October?

NEWPORT: Well, you know, there really hasn't been much change. We've been tracking overall familiarity with the ACA, the health care act, Obamacare, going back through the summer, and basically there's been very little change in terms of both age group attention paid to and overall attention paid to the act by everybody, even though of course through October, particularly after the shutdown, it really dominated news coverage.

At the same time, we had a flip in much more negative attitudes towards the act, among those who were familiar. So the trend shows the result of the publicity about the exchanges caused people to become much more negative about the act, but in terms of familiarity, not much change at all.

HOBSON: You also looked at how income plays into familiarity with the Affordable Care Act. What were the findings there?

NEWPORT: Aha, another important point because low-income people of course are one of the designated beneficiaries of the Affordable Care Act. But again, it's people with the lower incomes who are least likely to be at all familiar with the act. People with high incomes, who presumably - or at least higher incomes, have health insurance, are going to be less affected by the act. They're the ones who are paying the most attention.

So it's another example of how the target groups are really the ones that are least familiar with the ACA.

HOBSON: And Frank, one of the surprising findings in your poll is that those who are familiar with the law are more likely to oppose it than not. Do people say why?

NEWPORT: They didn't necessarily say why, but we looked at it underneath the data, and you're absolutely right, Jeremy. Of that group that don't know much about it, they about break even in terms of their attitudes about it. Now a bigger percent of them said they don't know - can't give an answer - but even though they're not familiar with, we still said, all right, what do you think about it? And vaguely, they break about even in terms of approving or disapproving, which is vastly different than those who are familiar with it, where the opposition is in double digits.

We didn't ask why, but we looked by party, and Republicans, who pay a lot of attention to the news. are by far more familiar with the act than Democrats. So perhaps those who are opposed to it are more likely to really want to dig into the detail. So they have more information, so they can base their opposition on something they really don't like. Maybe that's one explanation.

HOBSON: Frank Newport, editor-in-chief at Gallup, thanks so much.

NEWPORT: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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