Confusion Over Health Care Reform

A new CBS poll shows that most Americans are confused over health care reform. That is certainly clear from the comments I receive here where people complain about things which are totally different from what is in any of the actual bills under consideration. It is also clear when every day I have patients asking whether I’d still be able to be their doctor if this is passed, along with repeating other misconceptions being spread.

There are many reasons for this confusion.

First of all, our health care system is already confusing, and any major legislation to change it will wind up sounding confusing to those who do not deal with such subjects on a regular basis.

It doesn’t help matters that the media is concentrating on the horse race of getting health care reform passed as opposed to doing more to explain what is actually being proposed.

If people wouldn’t already be naturally confused enough, the situation is made much worse by the massive amount of misinformation being spread by the right wing. Many of these distortions are fed to conservatives and libertarians directly from the insurance industry. The complexity of the legislation, along with insufficient counter-information from the media, makes it easier for right wingers to spread their distortions.

Finally, the timing has been a problem. Obama’s goal was to have a bill passed by Congress before the August recess, but both the complexity of the issue and the opposition from conservatives made it unrealistic to meet this goal. It would be much easier to explain the specifics of health care reform if there was a single bill. Instead there are several bills under consideration making it impossible to explain exactly the final legislation will say.

Some fault Obama for this but it must also be considered that allowing the two houses of Congress to debate and ultimately pass the legislation is how the system is supposed to work. It is preferable to Hillary Clinton’s approach of writing a specific program in secret and then trying to jam it down the throat of Congress. That didn’t work out too well either.

Marc Ambinder writes that Obama does plan to address this confusion by giving more specific guidelines as to what the legislation should include and some of the ideas will be rebranded as Obama’s. Whether this works will be the ultimate test of Obama’s powers of communication and persuasion.

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