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Survey finds ho-hum attitude on health care law

WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama's health overhaul hasn't helped Americans feel any more secure about their own medical care, according to a survey to be released today by leading private researchers.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation said consumer con-fidence spiked in April after Obama signed landmark legislation to expand coverage and start trying to control costs. But confidence levels have since fallen back to what they were last year at the beginning of an epic congressional debate.

It's another sign of ambivalence over Obama's historic accomplishment as Democrats campaign to preserve their congressional majorities in the midterm elections. The ho-hum attitude may be due to the fact that the law's major benefits don't take effect until 2014, and most people's views are shaped by current experiences.

"Nothing really has changed for people who are accessing the system," said Lynn Blewett, director of the State Health Access Data Assistance Center at the University of Minnesota, which analyzed the findings. The health care law "hasn't boosted confidence, but it also hasn't deflated confidence," she added.

Unlike opinion polls, which provide a snapshot, the foundation's health care consumer confidence index is designed to measure public attitudes about access and affordability in a consistent manner over time.

It's based on two surveys, one that asks about problems paying for health care now, the other focusing on concerns about future costs. Set at 100 when it was launched in the spring of 2009, the health care confidence index now stands at 97.7.

Its sponsors hope that over the years the index will become as widely cited as a similar private survey that tracks overall consumer confidence.

Meanwhile, a survey by the Washington-based National Business Group on Health reported Wednesday that workers will pay more for their health care next year.

About 63 percent of businesses plan to make employees pay a higher percentage of their premium costs in 2011, said the group, which surveyed 72 firms that employ more than 3.7 million people.

The companies surveyed expect health care benefit costs to increase an average of 8.9 percent next year. New mandates under the health overhaul law will contribute to the increase, Helen Darling, the business group's president, said.

With Bloomberg News

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