Americans Hear More About Health Law, But Not From Most-Trusted Sources

The public’s awareness of new marketplaces is growing, but potential customers are getting much of their information about the health law from sources they don’t trust very much,  according to a poll released Wednesday.

Starting Oct. 1, people lacking insurance can begin enrolling in plans through online marketplaces, also called exchanges, which will be run by the federal government, 16 states and the District of Columbia. About 7 million people next year will get coverage under these policies, which take effect Jan. 1, according to the Congressional Budget Office.  By 2017 that number is expected to grow to 24 million people.

Supporters of the law and insurance companies have begun mobilizing to educate people about new insurance offerings.

The new poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 33 percent of the public reported hearing “a lot” or “some” information about the exchanges, up from 22 percent in June. (KHN is an editorially independent program of the foundation.)

The most common source of that information was the news media. Eighty-one percent of the public said they had heard “something” about the law within the last month from newspapers, cable TV shows, online news or radio. But only 8 percent of respondents said they have “a lot” of trust in the news media.

The second most common source of information was friends and family: 49 percent of people said they had heard something about the law from them. Pals and kin rank quite low on the list of trusted sources, however: Only 18 percent put “a lot” of  stock in them. The third most commonly mentioned source of information was social networking sites, which the respondents ranked dead last among accurate sources of information, with only 3 percent crediting them as consistently reliable.

The most commonly cited source of accurate information about the law are doctors and nurses, with 44 percent of the public citing them as trustworthy resources. Only 22 percent of people said they had heard something about the law from them. One of three people said they trust information put out by federal and state health agencies, but only one in six said they had heard information about the law from those sources.

Overall, the views about the health law remain constant. The public is basically split on it, with 42 percent opposing and 37 percent supporting. But 57 percent oppose cutting off funding, something that some congressional Republicans have been pushing in negotiations over raising the federal debt limit. Only 36 percent favor defunding the law. The most popular reason for opposing defunding is a procedural one: that if lawmakers want to get rid of the law, they should repeal it, not undermine it by cutting off funds.

The poll was conducted from Aug. 13 through Aug. 19 among 1,503 adults and has a margin of error is +/- 3 percentage points.