On the day the new health insurance exchanges made their debut in states across the USA, the public remains thoroughly confused about what the new health care law means. Teaching courses on health care reform, policy analysis, and health care in popular culture to savvy undergrads provides me with a small army of astute health care observers. Yesterday, six of my students shared the following video from Jimmy Kimmel with me:
The interviews presented in the video underscore the political problem facing the ACA. People’s views on health care reflect their partisan loyalties, ideology, and level of information. Most Americans still don’t understand the complexities of the law, how it will affect them, and what it means for the country. This is not simply a result of “misinformation” campaigns by opponents, although it’s clear that individuals’ perceptions of the law are shaped by their views of the President. Recent polls, however, suggest that “ObamaCare” can also have a positive impact on public perceptions, depending on whether respondents live in traditionally “red” or “blue” states. Support for the ACA/Obamacare, therefore, will remain mixed for the foreseeable future, and will vary widely from state to state. To change this state of affairs, supporters of reform must tell a new policy story that can bridge the gap between the insured and uninsured, and between businesses and employees. The rhetoric about health care reform continues to divide us, rather than bring us together.