Americans are puzzled by the new health care reform law and most of them haven’t the foggiest notion of how it will affect them personally, according to a comprehensive report released yesterday by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

They’re too bewildered to be angry, as many cable news pundits maintain, but they aren’t jumping for joy, either. The only provisions that seem to get high levels of support are those that go into effect later this year, according to the Kaiser Health Tracking Poll.

People favor, by large majorities, the government’s plan to close the “doughnut hole” in the Medicare drug plan, prohibit insurance companies from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions, and even directly control premiums with federal oversight.

Aside from health care itself, perhaps the most startling and disturbing result is that cable news outlets are now the source where the greatest numbers of Americans get their information, with TV network news and newspapers trailing far behind.

Almost as many people get their information from family and friends (10 percent) as get their information from newspapers (12 percent).

But 36 percent turn to cable news and cable news Websites, more than double the number who watch TV network news (16 percent). Only 9 percent say they get most of their news from radio.

Since so many Americans are now getting much of their information from the vast, empty wasteland of cable TV – where fact, myth and opinion are seamlessly interwoven by partisan politicos – it’s easy to see why there’s so much confusion.

“People are struggling to understand how the law will affect them and their families and to separate fact from political spin,” said Kaiser President and CEO Drew Altman.

To be fair, even people who have taken the time to seriously analyze the new law aren’t entirely sure what will happen in 2014. Part of that is because nobody knows how the health care landscape will change from now until then, with insurers fine-tuning their products and employers reacting to those changes.

Insurance companies could spend their time looking for legal loopholes, or they might begin to view health care system changes from a public relations viewpoint. Employers probably will start offering more wellness products. In turn, deductibles could surge.

The headline from the survey is that 55 percent of Americans say they’re confused by the health care law, and 56 percent don’t know how it will impact them personally. Overall, 46 percent view the law favorably; 40 percent unfavorably.

Kaiser asked about emotions generated by the debate and final passage of the bill. Large pluralities talked about relief (40 percent); or anxiety (42 percent). There was a split (45 percent) among people who said they were pleased or displeased.

Only 30 percent said they were angry – something you may find surprising in light of all the froth stirred up on cable TV news shows.


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