More than half of Howard County voters polled in a recent survey support the Affordable Care Act, the health care law passed during President Barack Obama's first term, although only 30 percent say they know "a lot" about what is in the act.
The Howard County-based Horizon Foundation, an independent health philanthropy, on Monday, Nov. 19, released the results of a September survey that details Maryland voters' — and more specifically Howard voters' — knowledge of the law.
Horizon surveyed 1,413 voters, including 406 in Howard County.
"Howard County is emblematic of the rest of the state," Horizon Foundation CEO Nikki Highsmith Vernick said in a phone interview. "This tells us we have a lot of work to do," she said, referring to health agencies' responsibilities to inform voters of key provisions in the law.
"Given our Howard County focus, we wanted to get a sense of how residents viewed and understood the new law," a Horizon spokesman said in an email. "However, the results were properly weighted so the over-sampling of Howard County didn't skew statewide numbers."
The survey had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percent.
The foundation found that 57 percent of Howard voters support the health care reform law, but only three in 10 said they know a lot about it.
According to Horizon, the percentage of county voters supporting the act rose to 65 percent after they heard a few key provisions of the law, such as:
• Insurance plans will cover free preventive care such as check-ups and cancer screenings.
• Insurance companies will not be able to discriminate against women and charge women more than they charge men for insurance.
• Soon, small business owners can join together to get the same prices for health insurance that big companies get.
"When we distill it into ways people can understand, support goes up," Vernick said.
The survey also found that 47 percent of Howard residents making less than $47,000 said they know "a little" or "not much" about the new law. The remaining 53 percent of voters said they knew "some" or "a lot" about the health care reform.
In comparison, only 16 percent of residents making more than $75,000 said they know "a little" or "not much" about the law compared to 84 percent who said they knew "some" or "a lot" of the health care changes.
"It shows that we have work to do as a county to make sure that everyone that is eligible for benefits can receive them," Vernick said.
Statewide results mirrored those found in Howard County. Throughout Maryland, 59 percent of those surveyed said they supported the law, but only 30 percent of voters knew "a lot" about it.
After hearing key provisions in the law, support among voters statewide climbed to 73 percent in favor.
Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, secretary of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, said he was pleased with the survey results.
"We have a great starting place of public support for implementation of the Affordable Care Act in Maryland," Sharfstein said. "The survey shows a broad level of support, but we're going to have to build on that level."