Americans unsure what health care reform means

President Barack Obama (Pic by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kevin S. O'Brien, via Wikimedia Commons)

According to new polling, the majority of Americans do not have definite positions on a health care reform provision requiring everyone to have health insurance. The individual mandate, which is the main subject of Florida’s legal challenge to the law, is one of the measure’s more controversial sections.

However, as Kaiser Health News reports, a new survey finds that the public is just as swayed by arguments supporting the health care mandate as they are by arguments criticizing it.

Kaiser reports:

In general, only 33 percent of Americans support the individual mandate, while 65 percent oppose it. Opposition swells to 74 percent after people are told the mandate is being challenged as unconstitutional, according this month’s tracking poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation. (KHN is an editorially independent program of the foundation.) Opposition spikes to 80 percent when people are told the mandate “could mean that some people would be required to buy health insurance that they find too expensive or did not want.”

But opinions change when poll respondents are told that without the mandate, people might wait until they are seriously ill to obtain coverage, driving up insurance costs for everyone. Forty-seven percent support the mandate after being told this, while 45 percent oppose it. A larger plurality (49 percent) backs the mandate when told that without it, insurers could refuse to cover sick people and when told people would be excused from having to buy insurance if the cost would “consume too large a share of their income.”

One pro-mandate argument tilts the public decisively in favor of the individual mandate. Sixty-one percent of those surveyed support it when told most Americans would still get their coverage through their employers and thus wouldn’t be affected by the mandate.

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear Florida’s challenge to the law in March. Twenty-five other states have joined in the legal challenge. While a handful of lower courts found the individual mandate provision unconstitutional, many have not. No lower court has upheld Florida’s assertion that the unconstitutionality of the provision is grounds for striking the law in its entirety.

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