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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Believing Healthcare Reality, Instead of Rightwing Spin

Rising health costs
Sometimes, polling shows just how wide of reality people's perceptions are. For example, in 2003 the Program on International Policy at the University of Maryland and Knowledge Networks found that Americans were poorly informed about the facts of the Iraq war, with Fox News viewers knowing the least. Basically, they called people up and asked them if they believed three false statements; that evidence of links between Iraq and al Qaeda had been found, that weapons of mass destruction had been found in Iraq, and that world public opinion favored the US invasion of Iraq. 80% of Fox viewers agreed with at least one of those statements. In fact, the more you watched Fox, the more likely you were to get the facts wrong. In other words, Fox News was obviously misinforming their audience to support the network's pro-war bias.

Yesterday, Gallup put out a poll that showed a similarly misinformed public. And while they didn't track which news source they relied on, they did track the respondents political affiliation.

A majority of Americans say the U.S. healthcare law that the Supreme Court recently upheld as constitutional will make things better for those who do not have health insurance and for those who get sick. At the same time, Americans say the law will make things worse rather than better for taxpayers, businesses, doctors, and those who currently have health insurance. Americans are about evenly divided on the impact of the law on hospitals and on themselves personally.

Americans' views of the implications of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), measured in a July 9-12 Gallup poll, are nuanced. Although Americans are fairly evenly split in their views of how the law will affect them personally, they have widely differentiated views of its impact on various other groups and entities in society. The results thus provide support for both proponents of the law, who argue that it will help those in need, and for opponents, who argue that it will place a burden of cost and more bureaucracy on taxpayers and businesses.


What I'm seeing here is that ACA is perceived as a sort of welfare for sick poor people. 59% believe it'll help people without insurance and 55% think it'll help people who get sick in general, but 51% believe it will hurt doctors, 57% say it will hurt businesses, and 60% say it will hurt taxpayers. All of which suggests that the majority of Americans don't even understand the most basic fact about the reform -- that it's market-based. And people's misperceptions are colored by their ideology, with Republicans taking the least informed view and Democrats taking the most. Unfortunately, Independents seem to be getting their info from Republicans.

But there's bad news in the pipe for Republicans here -- these misperceptions aren't sustainable. As more of the features of the reforms kick in, it becomes harder and harder to believe weird things about them, since reality contradicts GOP gloom and doom. For example:

Huffington Post:

When Laird Le found a check for $70.02 in the mail, he wasn't quite sure why. Turns out, he's one of the estimated 13 million Americans that will receive a rebate on their health insurance premiums as a result of the health care reform law recently upheld by the Supreme Court.

Look inside your mailbox: By the end of the month, you could be getting one of these refunds, which are are expected to total $1.1 billion this year. Health insurance companies have begun sending letters to customers informing them of a new rule requiring them to spend at least 80 percent of the premiums they receive on actual medical care, not on overhead, advertising, profits or other costs. Health insurers must cite the health care reform law, known as the Affordable Care Act, in the letter.

Le, a 35-year-old self-employed information technology consultant in Chicago, didn't know about the new rules until he got the check from UnitedHealth Group subsidiary Golden Rule Insurance Company. "I was pretty surprised," Le said. At first, he was afraid the company was canceling his plan, which costs about $160 a month. Once he realized what it was, getting a check like that was "powerful," he said. "I wouldn't have gotten a penny if it wasn't for the law."

So, if the insurer spends less than 80% of their premiums on coverage, the insured get a check for the difference. I'm guessing that Le is not part of the 46% who incorrectly think ACA will make things worse for people who have insurance. He has the most solid evidence in the world -- cold, hard cash in his pocket. Of course, he's not the only one.

"How many checks are we talking about? According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, nearly 16 million Americans will get rebates before the legal due date, which is Aug. 1," explains Steve Benen. "As a result, many of the checks -- some of which will be small, some may be worth over $500 -- will hit mailboxes this week."

A lot of Americans are about to learn that -- as with so many things -- healthcare reality has a liberal bias.


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