Say What? (Health Care Reform)

Hah! Turns out that the NYT poll I cited last week is part of a larger trend of doomsday reporting on health care reform.

Check out this too-short analysis of ways that news outlets fail to report on the complexity of poll results.

To wit:

2. CNN/ORC, June 8

Topline: 51 percent of respondents oppose the Affordable Care Act.

This is Weird: There’s more to that 51 percent figure than meets the eye. It turns out that only one in three feel the law was “too liberal” (to use CNN’s somewhat slippery language). One in six said they objected to the law because it didn’t go far enough. And get this: A solid 5 percent don’t like the law but can’t explain why (see above, “most Americans just don’t understand the law”). It’s worth noting that support in CNN’s poll has been steadily growing for the last year and now sits at 43 percent.

Hah! It turns out that when people oppose the law, it could for anything: it doesn’t go far enough, it goes too far, it just feels wrong but I can’t tell you why.

As I suspected, poll results about health care reform are far more complex than we are told.

We don’t have a liberal media. We have an overworked media. All that consolidation and cost-cutting. And suddenly the progressives are saying the same thing as the Tea Party. Say what?

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6 thoughts on “Say What? (Health Care Reform)

  1. Inder says:

    Honestly, I’m not sure I understand the law either! So I sympathize with that 5 percent. I think maybe they’re just more honest than the rest of us. You can’t expect a compromised brokered by Congress and the insurance industry to be pithy and easy to read, I suppose. Legislation like that is written with the idea that lawyers will be fighting over what it says for decades. It’s easier for legislators to adopt vague and ambiguous statutes than fight over the meaning of every single phrase, so that’s just what happens. You hope for a clean-up later, when the dust settles. Our political process can be pretty messy sometimes.

    • Inder says:

      For a lot of legislation, it would be misleading to say “most Americans don’t understand the law” – it would be better to point out that even the people who wrote it can’t agree on what it says. Saying that people don’t understand it implies that they are dumb or something, and that’s not fair, when you consider that how dense and ambiguous and downright impossible a lot of statutes are. It’s my job to interpret statutes, so I at least have the benefit of a big ego. If I can’t make heads or tails of it, it’s not because I’m ignorant, it’s because it’s ass-backwards.

  2. Elizabeth says:

    I would agree with you if they are talking about the fine details of actual legislation. But in broad strokes, the effects of the law are pretty clear and simple. And when people hear them expressed in simple terms, they support them.

    “You like expanding Medicaid coverage. You like keeping your kids on your plan until they’re 26. You like getting reasonably priced insurance even though you have a pre-existing condition. Well, we can’t pay for all that unless most people either buy insurance or pay a fee. And we’re going to help you pay for it on the private market if you can’t on your own. And we are going to reduce costs by helping insurers and providers operate more efficiently.”

    It’s really not that confusing, unless you try to follow all the “debate” about it, in terms of mandates and government control–but note that the terms of the public debate are all conservative terms. Making it not much of a debate, unfortunately.

    I suspect that the people who say they don’t like it but don’t know why are responding to a lack of effective communication by both the supporters and the critics of the law. Otherwise, they’d either like it or they’d know why they didn’t.

    • Inder says:

      I agree that there are some basics, and that unfortunately, the media has made things considerably more complicated (probably on purpose) in order to make the law seem more onerous and terrible than it actually is. If you’re watching FOX, they’re obviously playing up the incomprehensibility of the program to get their viewers to think it’s a bad idea.

      But when I had a simple question about it – specifically, how would this affect my uninsured mom who has preexisting conditions and how much would it cost her to buy herself and her husband a policy under the new plan? I found it almost impossible to find any kind of clear answer – I couldn’t even figure out who would be administering the plan locally. So while I understand the *idea* behind the law, I still don’t feel like I understand what it will actually look like to regular people like her. And that’s really important information.

      Now, I’m sure there is more information out there, and I just got impatient and stopped looking when my searches kept coming up with arcane and not very practical legalese/insuransese, so I’m not saying it’s not possible to find that information. Also, that was right after the law was adopted and I haven’t tried again more recently, when the information might be boiled down a bit more clearly somewhere. But that search did give the me the sense that some very basic issues (who administers the program, what the forms will look like, what it will cost) had not been worked out, at least at that point in time.

      • Inder says:

        Note, I am supportive of the new health plan, and my comment about not understanding the bureaucracy of how the plan will be administered is not intended a criticism of the big picture concept of the plan (it often takes time to work that stuff out). This was just to say, there are some aspects of the plan – aspects that people rightly care about – that are still murky. And that’s not even touching the “far reaching ramifications” of the plan, that everyone is debating about. Like most people on both sides of the political spectrum, I think there are far reaching ramifications for the insurance industry, for healthcare in general, not necessarily bad of course, but I am not quite sure what they will be.

  3. Elizabeth says:

    Definitely! They had to give until 2014 to implement the in-state exchanges and affiliated programs. Some states have theirs set up by now (like, CO has something set up). But it is very confusing–especially given the reliance on private companies for the whole thing. So if you search for the state insurance pool, which is where your mom would be getting her coverage, it’s either not set up yet or competing with private plans and very difficult to sort out. I’m guessing.

    I think I read a while ago that there was shockingly low participation in the new programs that have already started. They just don’t know about it, or don’t know how to get to it. It’s a massive communications challenge, and we can only criticize them about it in retrospect.

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