The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

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November 22, 2013

Public opinion of health law hits low as problems persist

By Alex Wayne

Bloomberg News

WASHINGTON — Public support for the U.S. health- care overhaul fell to its lowest level in a Kaiser Family Foundation survey after the Oct. 1 debut of government-run insurance marketplaces greeted consumers with website outages, higher prices and potentially broken promises.

About 33 percent of Americans surveyed in the past week said they had a favorable opinion of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act from 38 percent a month earlier, the lowest level since the law was signed in March 2010, the Menlo Park, Calif.-based nonprofit research group, said Friday.

The troubled debut of the exchanges that are a core part of President Barack Obama's health-care overhaul prevented many people from completing applications for medical coverage. That shifted public opinion and reinvigorated Republican opponents who have since held more than six congressional hearings to highlight the law's flaws.

"In the long term really what's going to drive the polls, what's going to drive the public judgment, is how well the law works and whether people like the coverage," Drew Altman, the foundation's chief executive officer, said in a telephone interview.

While 106,185 people enrolled in plans through the government exchanges last month, almost 1 million abandoned the application process after encountering website errors, garbled data and long waiting times. Obama is now banking on a surge of enrollees near deadlines in December and March to meet projections for 7 million sign-ups in the first year.

The online exchanges, where people can shop for private health insurance with the help of government subsidies, is the core of the Affordable Care Act's promise of extending medical coverage to most of the nation's 48 million uninsured. Getting the federal exchange fixed soon is necessary because most Americans are required to have health insurance by March 31 or pay a fine of as much as 1 percent of their income.

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