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Politics, Obamacare and health literacy

GLENN ELLIS | 3/6/2017, 10:56 a.m.
“And ain’t nobody fighting, ‘cause nobody knows what to save …” – Gil Scott-Heron, Winter in America
Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich, left, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nev. visit with mothers and their babies including six-month-old Karanda Taylor, and four-month-old Iris Dodson-Green, after an event on Capitol Hill in Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013, on maternal health in support of Obamacare, as Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas continued his lengthy speech in opposition to President Barack Obama's health care law. Jacquelyn Martin

Strategies for Well-Being

“And ain’t nobody fighting, ‘cause nobody knows what to save …” – Gil Scott-Heron, Winter in America

Opening rounds are underway in what will be, clearly, the biggest political, domestic fight of the new congressional year – the promise by President Trump and GOP lawmakers to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act.

The fight seems to be especially clear as Republicans move to eliminate a health care law that has, among other things, provided roughly 20 million people with some form of coverage; allowed young people under 26 to remain under their parent’s insurance coverage; and eliminated the inability to be insured due to pre-existing conditions.

The Affordable Care Act was signed into law by President Obama in March 2010. Its major provisions went into effect in Jan. 1, 2014. Love it or hate it, the ACA – also known as Obamacare – will forever be linked with President Obama.

The ACA did some great things, but also needs to be overhauled in some material ways. It had a big impact in the short term, and it set in motion what I believe will be a fundamental redesign of healthcare in the U.S. in the long term.

Universal opinion is that major problems remain: a risk pool with too many sick people and not enough who are young and healthy; federal backstop programs aimed at helping companies that miscalculated how much to charge and that have now expired; and deductibles and co-pays so high that many of the insured can’t afford to use their coverage. The insurance companies who say they need higher premiums to cover payouts to doctors and hospitals are pulling out of health exchanges, and premiums are expected to rise for individuals anywhere from 25 to 50 percent this year alone!

Together, the developments are posing new challenges for Americans seeking affordable coverage, and show the highly-touted overhaul of the country’s health care system is in some cases not yielding the savings President Obama once promised.

The public remains evenly divided on Obamacare. A recent Washington Post-ABC poll found 46 percent supported repealing the law, while 47 percent opposed it.

But there is an even greater problem.

A while back, TV host Jimmy Kimmel took to the streets of Hollywood to ask ordinary pedestrians which they thought was better: Obamacare or the Affordable Care Act. These are the exact same thing; however, people disliked Obamacare while preferring the “affordable alternative.”

One women claimed that she “just doesn’t agree with the whole Obamacare-policy-thing that’s going on,” though she couldn’t explain quite why. She did, however, agree with the ACA.

As sad as this is, the ignorance hardly comes as a surprise. People are more likely to hear propaganda slamming Obamacare, or supporting it, than they are to actually research it.

This illustrates a serious problem in the country at a time when the provision and availability of health care in this country is at the heart of political conversations. It’s called health literacy.

Health literacy is defined in the Institute of Medicine report, Health Literacy: A Prescription to End Confusion, as “the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions.”