New York (MainStreet) -- With Obamacare open enrollment under way for next year, Americans continue to oppose the Affordable Care Act even as new data reveals that many of us don't even know what's in it.
A recent survey, conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, asked ten questions about health insurance under the ACA. Nearly 40% of participants got half of the questions wrong, with 8% getting nothing right at all.
In a vacuum, those are pretty dismal results, and it might be tempting to write this off as a story about the ignorance and misinformation surrounding health care in America. It is, after all, certainly worth paying attention to the fact that the public overwhelmingly approves of the ACA's policies while disapproving of the law itself. It's difficult to square that circle without suggesting at least a little bit of ignorance, or at least hypocrisy.
This could be the end of this story were it not for the content of the survey itself. Diving into the questions, it turns out that Americans actually do get the basics of how health insurance works. We just don't understand some of the more technical details. The four most misunderstood questions were:
- Calculate the out-of-pocket costs for an out-of-network lab test with a total bill of $100 when the plan pays 60% of allowed charges and the allowed charge is $20. ($88)
- What is the best description of a "health insurance formulary"? (The list of prescription drugs your plan covers)
- If you receive inpatient care at a hospital that participates in your health plan's provider network, do all the doctor's who care for you in the hospital also have to be in network? (No)
- Calculate the out-of-pocket charges for a four-day hospital stay with a total bill of $6,000 with a $1,000 deductible and a $250 per day co-pay. ($2,000)
On the more basic questions such as defining health insurance premiums or describing a "provider network," people generally knew what was going on.
This is heartening news but only to a point. The Kaiser study shows that while we get the broad concepts, most of us still don't understand the details of what goes on behind the scenes in our health care system. For supporters of the ACA, this also highlights their ongoing problem with selling what is, at its heart, a very wonkish law. Winning public support for something like the (still hated) individual mandate depends on communicating the details of what makes it necessary in the eyes of the law's authors. Those, so far, are the very details that most people still don't understand.
At the beginning of Obamacare's second year, the administration has made some very real gains in communicating what this law is and how it works to the American people. It still, however, has a long way to go.
--Written for MainStreet by Eric Reed, a freelance journalist who writes frequently on the subjects of career and travel. You can read more of his work at his website www.wanderinglawyer.com.