Last week marked the third anniversary of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). (Time flies, doesn’t it?) So in three years, what’s the one thing that we’ve learned?
Apparently not much.
Kaiser Family Foundation’s new health tracking poll sheds some light on where the public is with health reform — and the findings go something like this: Americans are confused by what is and what is not in the law, and most don’t know how, or if, it affects them.
Worse yet, uncertainty is even greater for some of the key groups the law was designed to most help: the uninsured (67 percent) and those with incomes below $40,000 (68 percent).
One interesting takeaway from the poll is that Republicans or, more generally, opponents of the law, are doing a better job talking about PPACA. The public actually knows more about the least popular parts of the law — like the individual mandate — and less about the more popular provisions.
We do hear a lot from the federal health department, of course, who have been praising PPACA for doing everything from slowing down health costs to giving people better care. But as health costs are seemingly still difficult for all of us to control — and insurers argue our premiums will continue to rise — it’s hard for the public to really get a grip on what is going on.
There is so much polarization and arguments over the law that it’s too hard for the public to really get behind it. Will the law just overburden an already fragile economy? Will there be less doctors available because of an influx of patients? Or will the law make health care more affordable and more readily available to the masses?
It’s hard to know. Because the main pieces of the law haven’t yet gone into effect, we truly don’t know how much of an impact the legislation will have on us until we talk about its fourth anniversary next year. And four years is a long time to wait to figure out how important legislation will affect our daily lives.
What health reform has done is reinforced the fact that we Americans in general are confused about health care and health coverage in general. We need to play a more active role in our care before we can really get it. But as far as I’m concerned, a 15-page application doesn’t sound like it will do anything to help families in simplifying the process of obtaining coverage.
Our health care system is irretrievably broken — and it has been well before health reform came along. As a consumer, do I hope PPACA will help recover it? Absolutely. Am I confident it will? I’m not so sure.
As PPACA turns three, I realize its greatest accomplishment so far has been its survival. And its biggest legacy so far is the public’s confusion over it. And that’s not much to celebrate — at least yet.
For more from Kathryn Mayer, see: