Even as Congress worked toward passage of a compromise health insurance reform plan, a survey released last month found that most Americans know little about the issue.
The poll also found that Medicare has become a significant issue to voters.
According to the survey by the Kaiser-Harvard Program on the Public and Health/Social Policy, 56% of those surveyed had never heard or read about the health insurance reform bill before Congress. Of the 43% that had knowledge of the proposal, 47% favored it, while only 14% opposed it.
The survey also found an even higher level of ignorance regarding the most controversial part of the insurance plan, a measure to spur the use of medical savings accounts. Nearly 70% of those surveyed had never heard of MSAs.
In a related matter, the study found that when asked what the most important issues were in the coming presidential election, the issues of healthcare and Medicare were mentioned by 7.5% of respondents, tied with healthcare reform as the fourth most mentioned issue. The leading issue was the economy (14%).
The Kaiser study also found a significant shift in Americans' attitude toward reducing the rate of growth in the Medicare program.
In a survey done by the same group last year, 73% of those surveyed said they supported reducing Medicare growth to prevent the program from going bankrupt. But in the most recent survey, more than half said they did not support reducing Medicare growth rates even if it would prevent the Medicare trust funds from going bankrupt.
"Views on changing Medicare appear to be hardening, presenting a real dilemma both for Republicans and Democrats who will have to make tough choices to control future Medicare costs," said Robert Blendon, a healthcare polling expert at the Harvard School of Public Health.