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January 30, 2014 1:22 PM What If People Start Paying Attention To Obamacare’s Good Features?

By Ed Kilgore

As Republicans prepare to talk nonstop about Obamacare between now and November, the question arises whether misinformation is better or worse than no information at all. The latter, to a surprising extent, is what many millions of Americans have right now, per a new update on public opinion from the Kaiser Family Foundation:

When it comes to the individual elements of the law, awareness has increased slightly for two of the big ones: the individual mandate (81 percent now say it is part of the law, up from 74 percent last March) and the health insurance exchanges (68 percent, up from 58 percent). Still, large shares of the public - and even higher shares of the uninsured - remain unaware of some other major provisions of the law. For example, roughly four in ten adults overall, and about half of the uninsured, are not aware that the law provides financial help to low- and moderate-income Americans to help them purchase coverage, gives states the options of expanding their Medicaid programs, and prohibits insurance companies from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions.

These provisions of the ACA that most benefit the uninsured are, more generally, its most popular provisions. It’s absolutely shocking that a majority of the uninsured (and 46% of the general public) don’t know about the ban on denial of insurance for pre-existing conditions.

Ignorance about the Medicaid expansion is nearly as extensive; it would be interesting to know if that situation is better or worse in the 21 states that have rejected the expansion. Unless it’s radically better, it’s another data point for Democrats making this a campaign issue in both federal and state elections in the rejectionist states. Even if people are vaguely aware of the issue, I doubt they have any idea their elected officials are turning down a major expansion of health insurance for which the federal government will pay 93% of the cost over the next decade (hell, the feds will even let you completely overhaul the Medicaid system to suit your every conservative whim, and then pay for it!).

Meanwhile, the KFF tracking poll shows sentiment for accepting and improving the Affordable Care Act continues to outstrip support for repealing it, despite its heavily ignorance-based unpopularity, by a 55/38 margin.

Obviously Republicans have benefitted from media reports of actual and perceived problems with the Obamacare rollout, and from the snail’s-eye view such reports offer of the law and the people it effects (so far, you’d think the only people who matter are prior holders of individual health insurance plans). They’d better hope for more bad press for the law, because when folks begin to find out about its major provisions, they may become even less inclined to support repealing it.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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