"I think that people are optimistic about stuff that they know about for sure, which is the under-26 provision, and then just the fuzzy nature of just what's been promised to them," said Stephen T. Parente, director of the Medical Industry Leadership Institute at the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, and a former adviser to Republican Presidential candidate Sen. John McCain.
Expanding coverage to children under 26 "promises to be a relatively cheap and easy way to cover a group that was clearly disadvantaged under the old system," noted Pamela Farley Short, professor of health policy and administration and director of the Center for Health Care and Policy Research at Pennsylvania State University.
"It will give parents peace of mind and save them money if they were paying for COBRA extensions or individual policies so their kids would not be uninsured," she explained. "So I think that change will be popular and may help to build support for the exchanges and the big expansion of coverage in 2014."
However, on other measures of the legislation's impact, public opinion is mixed, the Harris Interactive/HealthDay poll found. More people think the plan will be bad for the quality of care in America (40 percent to 34 percent), for containing the cost of health care (41 percent to 35 percent) and for strengthening the economy (42 percent to 29 percent).
People often define quality in terms of access to the doctors they like, but "it's not clear any of this really changes or affects that," Parente said.
And he added, "No one is unequivocally saying this is going to solve the cost problem."
While President Obama said his plan would "bring down the cost of health care for millions of families, businesses, and the federal government," many have questioned the legislation's cost-containment provisions.
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