This article from Public News Service highlights some of the hurdles the ACA faces in terms of public opinion. An attorney with the Colorado Center on Law and Policy notes that more than 50% of consumers think that the healthcare reform law is creating a new government-run health insurance policy. Given the general unpopularity of government-run programs in general, it’s not surprising that the healthcare reform law has struggled in the court of popular opinion. The public tends to be quite wary of new government programs, especially before they’re in place. Once they’re up and running – like Medicare for example -they sometimes get a bit more popular. But proposing a new government program is generally a good way to get people fired up.
If you’ve been paying attention to the mundane details of the ACA, you know that there’s no new government-run health insurance plan. The public option got nixed from the healthcare reform strategy right from the beginning. The law does expand some of our public health programs that already exist (like Medicaid and CHIP). It seeks to insure most of the currently uninsured population via increased enrollment in private health insurance plans and expanded access to public health insurance. The individual mandate and guaranteed issue individual health insurance will hopefully result in far fewer people without health insurance. In addition, the provision that allows young people to remain on their parents’ health insurance through age 26 is helping to cut down on the number of young Americans without health insurance.
In addition to the fact that over half of consumers think that the ACA is creating a new government-run health insurance program, the Public News Service article also notes that more than a third of consumers don’t know that the ACA has a provision for subsidizing health insurance premiums for families that aren’t able to afford coverage. This provision is likely to financially benefit a large chunk of the population, and yet less than two thirds of consumers are aware of it.
The lack of awareness on these two key issues might be a reflection on where people are getting their information, and on the the sharp polarization and political nature of the healthcare reform law. On both sides of the political spectrum, there are plenty of heavily biased media outlets, bloggers, radio hosts and other opinionated folks who might not always be providing accurate information to their readers, viewers and listeners. Rather than focusing on the dry legal details of the ACA, biased sources might be focusing more on entertainment and/or getting people fired up. And the result is that a large segment of the population doesn’t really understand some of the basic provisions of the ACA.