Seniors Still In The Dark On New Health Law

United HomeCare Services home health aide Wendy Cerrato talks with Olga Socarras during a visit on January 6, 2010 in Miami, Florida.
United HomeCare Services home health aide Wendy Cerrato talks with Olga Socarras during a visit on January 6, 2010 in Miami, Florida. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Despite things like the $250 check to help them with drug coverage, most seniors don't understand the new health law.

That fact that people don't know a lot about what's in the new health law isn't exactly news.

But a new poll that shows just how little Grandma and Grandpa know about it must be giving the new law's supporters a serious case of heartburn.

That's because seniors are not just a key voting bloc in the upcoming mid-term elections, but a group that's been showered with some sweet upfront benefits -- like $250 checks as a downpayment to close the notorious Medicare drug benefit "doughnut hole."

Yet a new poll from the National Council on Aging finds seniors surprisingly ignorant on many of the key features of the law, particularly those aimed at the Medicare program from which most of them get their health coverage.

The group identified a dozen facts it thinks "every senior should know about the health reform law." That includes things like the fact that the law does not reduce Medicare's funding for doctors and that it includes some new benefits for seniors; that it expands coverage for younger Americans; and that it includes a new, optional program to help pay the costs of long-term care at home.

Yet despite sometimes controversial educational efforts by the Obama administration, the AARP, and others, the poll found only 17 percent of seniors knew the correct answers to more than half of the questions and only 9 percent correctly answered two-thirds of the questions.

“The health reform debate was long and complicated and often dominated by political spin that confused seniors,” said James Firman, president and CEO of NCOA. "The fact that this poll revealed that so many people are misinformed  or don’t know much about the new law means we have our work cut out for us."

And how is the group going to do that work? With yet another 'educational campaign' featuring still more brochures and fact sheets.

Got a better idea? Let us know. Copyright 2010 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

blog comments powered by Disqus