A few weeks ago I was in a doctor’s waiting room and heard a sincere but seriously misinformed person spouting nonsense about the Affordable Care Act. I didn’t say anything because I didn’t think it was my place to do. I also didn’t want to upset the person or anyone else in the waiting room by getting into an argument. But odds are the person will continue to believe and spread nonsense, and that’s not good.
Public opinion surveys suggest a lot of people believe ridiculous things. As Jeffrey Young noted a few months ago, Public Policy Polling (a firm based here in North Carolina with a pretty good track record) asked a sample of over a thousand Americans back in March,
To the best of your knowledge, do you think that President Obama’s health reform law establishes a government panel to make decisions about end-of-life care — sometimes referred to as ‘death panels,’ or not?
Of course, as a matter of objective fact, it does nothing of the sort. In 2009 the fact-checking site Politifact called the claim that it did the Lie of the Year.
The good news is that more people answered correctly than incorrectly. The bad news is that the difference was only 11 percentage points. A mere 40 percent of those asked got it right, 29 percent got it wrong, and the rest weren’t sure. And this isn’t some arcane technical detail; it’s one of the most basic and much-discussed facts about the law.
Other misconceptions aren’t that outrageous but are still a problem. A lot of people seem to think that “Obamacare policies” bought on the exchanges are some kind of government insurance when in fact the exchanges list only health insurance policies offered by private insurance companies. The premiums, deductibles, and so on are likewise set by the private insurers themselves, subject to state but not federal oversight. The Affordable Care Act does set minimum standards for what the policies have to cover, requires them to cap out-of-pocket costs for the insured, and stops the companies from canceling policies (or refusing to issue them in the first place) to sick people. As anyone with experience with the U.S. medical system is aware, insurance companies intrude into the doctor-patient relationship for people they insure, but the federal government doesn’t. Of course, if someone thinks his or her Obamacare policy is a government policy (never mind that they pay the premiums to a private company), then it’s not surprising they they blame the government rather than the private insurer if the insurer won’t authorize a treatment their doctor recommends.
I don’t want to waste space here cataloging every false belief, let alone the deliberate political lies, about the Affordable Care Act. Instead I’ll just suggest an independent source of reliable information about the Affordable Care Act, good and bad: The Kaiser Family Foundation.