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6 Incredible Figures That Illustrate the Uncertainty Surrounding Obamacare

Seven months from today, you'll be required by law to carry health insurance -- that's a fact. But, as we lead up into the full implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, on Jan. 1, 2014, many aspects of the bill still remain unknown, daunting, or even intimidating to many Americans. From how much more (or less) health insurance may cost individuals and their families, to whether or not their current coverage is good enough to pass the bill's beefed-up minimum coverage standards, the PPACA has created just as many questions as answers.

Source: White House on Flickr

I've already examined the benefits and weaknesses of the bill, so let's take a step back and look toward public opinion to tell the tale of Obamacare. If a picture is worth 1,000 words, then these six poll numbers certainly paint a picture of the trials and tribulations yet to come in the health care sector.

In early April, a Rasmussen poll surveyed 1,000 likely voters and, based on those answers, 78% of them told Rasmussen that the current quality of health-care coverage that they are receiving is good or excellent. Only 4% responded that the care they're currently receiving is believed to be poor.

This is particularly interesting, as the PPACA is going to dramatically broaden the scope of the minimum coverage requirements, on the premise that the current coverage for many is simply not encompassing enough. Initial estimates from a study by the University of Chicago pegged about half of all current health-insurance policies as having inadequate coverage based on the new requirements. While that could mean bigger out-of-pocket costs for individuals, it could also mean big profits for diagnostic companies like Thermo Fisher Scientific, which provides diagnostic testing kits to the hospital and pharmaceutical industries. With expanded coverage comes the potential for more preventative testing, which would be a boon for Thermo Fisher.

In yet another poll conducted by Rasmussen, this time in mid-December, it surveyed 1,000 likely voters to get their opinion on the quality and cost of health care reform. The findings of the poll showed that 73% of those surveyed expected the cost of the PPACA to be higher than initially projected. 

On one hand, and in all fairness to Obamacare, when was the last time we saw any multibillion-dollar overhaul cost less than initially projected? Then again, these 73% have viable concerns, given that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS, reversed a recommendation last month to boost Medicare Advantage reimbursements by 3.3% instead of dropping them by 2.3% as it initially recommended in February. The move, the CMS claims, was made after it recalculated how doctors were being paid. However, it also came on the heels of lobbying attempts by the insurance industry and about 160 lawmakers. If the cost of Obamacare goes well over budget, that'll be great news for Humana (NYSE: HUM  )  Humana generates 63% of its revenue from Medicare Advantage plans, which are supplemental health plans purchased by seniors to help offset the costs not covered by Medicare. If the government is unable to lower reimbursements to these companies, then Humana may have little to worry about. 

Three years after the signing of the PPACA into law, Americans were surveyed with regard to their knowledge of whether or not their state had set up a health-insurance exchange. The Kaiser Health Tracking Poll (link opens PDF), which was conducted in March, showed a whopping 48% of respondents reported hearing "nothing at all," while a combined 22% of respondents reported hearing "a lot" or "some" about whether an insurance exchange was being set up in their state. Furthermore, an overwhelming 78% of respondents claimed they had not heard enough from their own state's governor to determine if Medicaid was, or was not, expanding in their state.

This poll is always a doozy because it encompasses so many variables. However, one factor that sticks out is how much of Obamacare is still largely misunderstood. As this same study points out, some of the most popular provisions in the PPACA, such as giving tax credits to small businesses to buy insurance, and creating health-insurance exchanges, are also some of the least recognized aspects of the bill. Only 58% of those surveyed knew that creating health-insurance exchanges was part of the PPACA, and even fewer knew that small businesses received a tax break to buy insurance. If anything, this proves that it's going to be an ongoing learning experience for the government, businesses, and all individuals involved in the process.

For insurers like WellPoint (NYSE: ANTM  ) , the lack of knowledge surrounding the insurance exchanges could be a worrisome point. With WellPoint's purchase of AMERIGROUP for $4.46 billion last year to become the nation's largest Medicaid-based insurer, it's counting on an influx of lower-income individuals into its network. If those members don't know how to seek out that coverage, that's a big problem for WellPoint.

Following up March's eye-opening poll was yesterday's release from the Kaiser Family Foundation's tracking poll, which noted that a stunning 42% of respondents didn't know that "the Affordable Care Act is still the law of the land." In addition, the poll goes on to state that 12% of respondents believed Congress repealed the PPACA, 7% thought the Supreme Court repealed it, and 23% had no clue what its status was.

This again reinforces the notion that many Americans are simply "not in the know" when it comes to understanding how this bill is going to affect them. This is neither an endorsement nor a disapproval of the bill itself, but a simple matter of fact that insurers -- which very well could benefit from a large influx of new members -- could struggle to sign up those new members if people don't understand how the new law will affect them.

Also taken from the Kaiser Family Foundation's April tracking poll, only 35% of respondents view the PPACA favorably. That marks the second-lowest reading since the Kaiser Family Foundation began keeping a record of popular opinions on Obamacare in April 2010. Conversely, the "I don't know/refused" consortium hit a high mark this past month, with 24% of surveyors responding with ignorance or indifference to the bill. 

Source: Kaiser Family Foundation Health Tracking Polls. Note: No data available for December 2012 or January 2013. 

Not to sound like a broken record, but this is yet another confirmation that Americans aren't really sure what to expect from health-care reform, and would rather choose to stand pat than make any drastic moves. That would certainly explain the nearly one in four respondents who appear indifferent to Obamacare. Like the previous studies, it offers a cloudy forecast to insurers who are counting on state and local governments, as well as individuals, to utilize exchanges and purchase health insurance. If disapproval or indifference toward the bill continues to grow, insurers may struggle to bring in new customers and, worse yet, their public image (and subsequently share price) may suffer.

Finally, a study by the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis in March indicated that only 4% of employers surveyed had shifted to more part-time workers in direct response to Obamacare. Of the remaining 96%, 89% said they had no intention of altering their hiring habits in response to Obamacare.

While those figures are optimistic on paper, it still remains to be seen whether it will translate out to a loss of jobs or hours on paper. The potential concern with the Minneapolis Fed's survey is that large corporations make up the bulk of employee compensation in this country. The New York Times reported in 2011 that corporations of 500 or more employees account for 57% of all employee compensation. If even a few of these companies are part of that 4% that have chosen to hire part-time workers, or the 7% that plan to, then we could have a serious problem on our hands.

Take Regal Entertainment, for instance. The nation's largest movie theater chain cut back thousands of employees' hours last week in direct response to Obamacare. With fewer employees working past 30 hours, it frees the company from the responsibility of having to provide them with group health-care options -- but it also leaves many employees with less take-home pay.

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Read/Post Comments (22) | Recommend This Article (6)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On May 03, 2013, at 8:32 PM, MIKEYFOOL100 wrote:

    I'm waiting for Nancy Pelosi to tell me how it's going to go down. I'm sure she has read the bill by now.

  • Report this Comment On May 03, 2013, at 8:36 PM, rotorheadv8 wrote:

    If the above photo is a picture of just on page of the 2,000 pages of the bill, then we are boned. "We have to pass it to see what's in it" doesn't event do any good. They wrote it in such a way as to allow them do whatever they want to do.

  • Report this Comment On May 03, 2013, at 8:37 PM, wscarp1 wrote:

    Next time why don't you get somebody more unbiased than Rasmussen the Republican pollster?

    For most people nothing has happened because this law has not been implemented. Ask them in about two years and see what they say.

  • Report this Comment On May 03, 2013, at 9:07 PM, RHO1953 wrote:

    Those numbers are an accurate reflection of public opinion. Obamacare is another massive wealth transfer, entitlement and mandate that will reassign hundreds of billions of dollars of discretionary spending to where Obama orders you to spend it. Totally un-American, but America doesn't look very American these days.

  • Report this Comment On May 03, 2013, at 9:14 PM, copperplum22 wrote:

    Nancy Pelosi said "We wont know whats in it till we pass it." Clearly the botox has made it's way to her brain. She granted waivers for the businesses in her district that were major donors to her campaign. Howard Dean (Ex- DNC chair) described it as "Christmas for the insurance companies" and "an insurance companie's dream" and "bailout for the insurance companies". Remember, these are the SAME health insurance companies that paid fat bonuses to employees for letting people die by denying the very coverage they paid for. Way to go Libs!

  • Report this Comment On May 03, 2013, at 9:20 PM, jgroceryman wrote:

    Obamacare is another Socialist program designed by the Democrats for the poor and payed for by the working class people. Just like food stamps and free housing programs for the poor Obamcare will be abused and overrun by poor people and illegal immigrants to the point it will bankrupt this nation one day.

  • Report this Comment On May 03, 2013, at 9:27 PM, JustAnotherName wrote:

    Rasmussen? Weren't they the people who predicted Obama would lose the last election?

  • Report this Comment On May 03, 2013, at 9:43 PM, Dadx7 wrote:

    Everyone, Dems, Repubs, Independs, be honest. Have you ever experienced or heard of any government social program that has been a real success? Has Food Stamps, rent supplement, child care supplement, medicaid, medicare, social security, etc. been successful? When our government gets involved in massive social programs the programs fail. The problem is the government is not will to go back and reevaluate programs and get them back on the straight and narrow. This Obamacare is going to turn out to be as bad as if not wore that the whold welfare program.

  • Report this Comment On May 03, 2013, at 10:26 PM, Tiana23336 wrote:

    Be sure and sign the white house petition for the bill that is in house right now that is trying to excempt congressmen from Obamacare for life..they voted Obamacare into law and should have all the joys we have...let us make sure they get their reward! Please visit this link and sign! Shame on any public servant that would vote something into law and see a awful mistake they had made and then excempt themself.

  • Report this Comment On May 03, 2013, at 10:39 PM, Spartigan wrote:

    This piece of legislation may turn out to be the most costly and harmful in history. Democrats including Harry Reid himself have called it an approaching "train wreck" and is asking for more funding to try to implement it by next January. It looks like a bottomless money hole for taxpayers and more expensive medical insurance with rationed healthcare for insured.

  • Report this Comment On May 03, 2013, at 11:39 PM, jaynee1234 wrote:

    What about all the community colleges and universities that have been moving their part-time faculty from 3 classes down to 1 or 2? These are potentially tens of thousands of employees that never had insurance and are now also losing income because of this act.

  • Report this Comment On May 03, 2013, at 11:54 PM, Makikijoe wrote:

    We need single payer universal health care like they have in Canada and in Great Britain.

    Those countries cover EVERYBODY while devoting a smaller percetage of their Gross Domestic Product to health care costs.

    They must be doing something right.

    Most citizens of those countries are quite satisfied with their nationalized health care systems.

    You conservatives NEVER, and I repeat...... NEVER ..... seem to talk about the 30 or 40 million Americans who have endured so long without vital health insurance.

    And who now will be eligible to have health insuranc, once the system is set up and running and the kinks are worked out..

    I guess that's not that important to you guys on the right since you usually don't even find time to even mention it.

    But I notice you sure DO find the time to talk relentlessly about how it will raise costs.

    Yes, it will cost SOME people more.

    It's designed that those some people are the most wealthy, those who can afford it.

    Are you not concerned about the millions who have, up until now, not even HAD any health insurance at all and who will now be covered under the new health care law ?.

    I guess you're not really all that concerned about that.

    I guess you are too busy whining and screaming your heads off about rising costs that YOU personally might have to shoulder some of the burden of paying.

    Selfishness is never in short supply in our country.

    Especially when there are conservatives around.

    But I, for one, will go to my grave shouting, "Health Care Is A Birthright" and "Health Care For All".

  • Report this Comment On May 04, 2013, at 12:19 AM, SwiperFox wrote:

    Another chance to rile up the Tea crowd and get lots of comments. Next time, talk about background checks and pretend to be predicting how RGR will do next quarter. Then you can discuss abortion bans and pretend it has something to do with the healthcare sector.

  • Report this Comment On May 04, 2013, at 12:54 AM, Gowithit wrote:

    I would debate the merits of this, but using polling to determine if we need to increase coverage or coverage rates is just silly to begin with,and skimming through the rest just showed your initial point to be telling. Most people have no clue what coverage they have until after something bad happens. So them sayin their current coverage is "fine" really doesn't tell anyone much of anything since we'd assume based on statistics that less than 22% of people have had a major medical illness (and that doesn't account for a variety of other factors as well). Stick to writing politics on political blogs.

  • Report this Comment On May 04, 2013, at 3:33 AM, Richard233 wrote:

    There are several reasons why our health

    coverage costs more than other countries.

    1) We don't "fix" the price of drugs. Of course this

    also translates to more drugs being developed

    HERE rather than invented elsewhere. WE are

    effectively subsidizing the medicine to the rest of

    the world by allowing higher profits to be made here and thus allowing them to sell at a cheaper price elsewhere.

    But there are also abuses in the system here

    where companies pay the generic makers to back off or even buy the companies up.

    2)We, as a country, are fatter. Fat people tend

    to get sick more and need more treatment.

    Things like knee replacements for instance.

    3)We are paying for the healthcare of other

    countries citizens that are present in our country

    without permission.

    4)The threat of lawsuits result in many more tests being performed than otherwise would be done on the off chance that someone who could have possibly used it sues.

  • Report this Comment On May 04, 2013, at 5:36 AM, firefly61 wrote:

    Voted For Obama Twice. The Republicans left me no choice. There are things in this bill that I just cant live with and im all for scrapping the whole thing. I think we who aren't able to afford insurance are getting the shaft royally.

  • Report this Comment On May 04, 2013, at 8:39 AM, houston087 wrote:

    Forget the percentages here and ask the nations uninsured ( 1/5 of the population or 50 million people) what they think about ACA.

  • Report this Comment On May 04, 2013, at 9:45 AM, itsafree1 wrote:

    Well, Since Obama care my rates have gone up $300 every two weeks. That is $600 a month. Currently lookin gelse where for a new plan.

    Health care comapnies are also raising there rate just because. I work for the federal government and our coverage in plain terms *&^%%$....

    Of course the senate, house and congress , along with the president do not belong to this as they are exempt.... They also receive full benefits at retirement of ONE TERM served.

    The only thing this new care has done was make people talk about it.

    The only benefit of our health care is that if your illegal not a politically correct term , it is totally free.....

  • Report this Comment On May 04, 2013, at 10:28 AM, fedupwithit wrote:

    There is another legal challenge underway to the constitutionality of the PPACA (Obamacare). This one has a fairly good chance of resulting in the law being declared unconstitutional. When the Supreme Court declared that the penalty under the individual mandate was a tax, the result surprised many people but it allowed the court to bypass the issue of whether the government could force people to buy private health insurance using an economic penalty. The problem with declaring the penalty under the individual mandate a tax means that the PPACA is a tax law. All tax laws under the origination clause of the Constitution must begin in the House of Representatives, not the Senate. The PPACA really began in the Senate when Harry Reid completely gutted a bill dealing with veterans benefits and shoved the language of the PPACA into that empty shell. If the federal courts allow this sort of tactic to stand, they've effectively gutted the origination clause in the Constitution and considering that the American Revolution was fought over the issue of taxes imposed on this country by England, this would be a rather frightening result. It will take awhile for this to work its way through the courts (it's currently in Federal District Court) but the issue has to be heard and resolved. The current members of the Supreme Court dislike dealing with tax issues but this one isn't really a "tax issue". This is pure constitutional law and if the Court allows tactics such as letting the Senate gut an existing bill and then stuffing the shell full of tax issues to stand under the origination clause of the Constitution, then this country really is heading for hell in a handbasket.

  • Report this Comment On May 04, 2013, at 1:34 PM, gimmethefacts wrote:

    Blah, blah, blah. All of this means absolutely nothing until the crap really hits the fan! No one can even tell you what we are in for.

  • Report this Comment On May 04, 2013, at 3:55 PM, profitsB4patient wrote:

    Gluttony\greed rules and selection for the healthiest patients; Goal for bonuses and payouts for share holders trumps patient;Caring i.e. care is secondary, every Dr. decision is based on maximizing aka capitalizing profits before patient care and it is in debt do patients part and spoils go to victor i.e. insurance companies erecting hospital banks for more patient cash cows gift, filling the pockets of executive leeches bureaucrats and politicians

  • Report this Comment On May 04, 2013, at 9:19 PM, notsoblind wrote:

    Just wait until feb,15-2015,when people used to get a tax refund...

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