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Poll: Plain-English summaries are best part of health reform Posted: December 6th, 2011

By Maryalene LaPonsie

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act remains controversial, but one provision of the law has gained widespread support: A monthly tracking poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation found 60 percent of Americans feel "very favorable" about a requirement that mandates plain-English summaries of health insurance plans' benefits and coverage.

In fact, this is the only provision to garner a "very favorable" rating from more than half of respondents to the survey.

Consumer opinion on health reform

In its November 2011 monthly tracking poll, the Kaiser Family Foundation found many Americans continue to be skeptical of health care reform. While 37 percent view the law favorably, a greater number – 44 percent – have an unfavorable view of health reform legislation.

Some provisions have found a measure of support. Several have been the subject of extensive media coverage, including one to close the Medicare "donut hole" for prescription drug coverage and another to provide government subsidies to income-eligible families for health insurance premiums.

However, a less-publicized provision has been singled out as the most popular change mandated by health reform: the requirement that medical insurance companies provide plain-English summaries of their benefits and coverage.

The following provisions had the greatest percentage of respondents who said they felt "very favorable" toward the change:

  • Easy-to-understand plan summaries: 60 percent
  • Guaranteed issuance of coverage: 47 percent
  • Gradual closing of the Medicare "doughnut hole": 46 percent
  • Tax credits for small businesses: 45 percent
  • Subsidy assistance for individuals: 44 percent

Individual health insurance mandate remains unpopular

The individual health insurance mandate – one of the law's key components – does not garner widespread support. In 2014, health reform will require virtually all U.S. residents to maintain health insurance coverage. In the Kaiser survey, only 16 percent of respondents said they felt "very favorable" about the health insurance mandate.

The provision has come under fire from some who argue Congress cannot compel citizens to purchase medical insurance. While the issue has been the subject of cases in several appellate courts, the Supreme Court ultimately will determine the question of constitutionality.

The high court's justices have announced plans to hear arguments on the law next spring, and a decision is expected by July 4.