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Home Publications Blogs Beat the Press People Are Getting Insurance: A Factor the Post's Polling Experts Never Considered In Their Assessment of Attitudes Towards Obamacare

People Are Getting Insurance: A Factor the Post's Polling Experts Never Considered In Their Assessment of Attitudes Towards Obamacare

Thursday, 08 May 2014 05:29

There are 8 million people who are getting health insurance through the exchanges now. This number will continue to grow throughout the year as people experience "life events" that allow them to sign up for the exchanges after the end of the open enrollment period. (Life events include losing insurance due to job loss, a death in the family, and divorce. Job loss is the most common item in this group with close to 4 million workers changing jobs every month.)

The fact that the exchanges are now up and running means that millions of people will have direct knowledge of Obamacare rather than just hearing the media and politicians talk about it. While this direct knowledge is likely to influence their view of the program, this possibility is never taken into consideration in the discussion of public attitudes toward Obamacare in the Post's "The Fix" column.

It is likely that many people would be opposed to the idea of a government-run insurance program that pays for most of the health care costs of people over age 65. However, Medicare is a hugely popular program even among Tea Party conservatives. People's direct experience with Obamacare will likely have more impact on their attitudes toward the program than what they are being told about the program by the media.

Comments (15)Add Comment
written by Peter K., May 08, 2014 7:36
I figured that Obamacare would follow the path of Romneycare in Massachusettes, i.e. be successful if not as good as single-payer (but that wasn't doable at the moment.)

Off topic: article on trade that echoes Baker and which people might like:
Madness of crowds/Predictably irrational
written by s ken brown, May 08, 2014 8:23
Still don't understand why in this case conservative seniors can't internalized how ludicrous wanting the government to keep hands off their Medicare is. We fought a civil war because half the country thought the government had no business trying to deal with the obvious immorality of slave holding if it meant at some point they should stop doing it. I have some otherwise rational friends who got permits to carry guns and do carry them and say they are going to shoot people when none of them ever before in their lives were in a situation where they needed a gun and they don't even know anyone who was ever in that situation either but they heard about it on TV. I think they are caught up in this paranoid fervor that the non-white person boogymen are coming to kill them and end their way of life or at least white people aren't as big a majority as before and for god's sake one of them is now in the white house. So I think the real boogyman here is the media which in their quest for pertinence shows us everything immediately and with maximum sensationalism and I don't think that genie can go back in the bottle. If we humans can't control our reactions to progress, change and ubiquitous blitzing media, we are headed for interesting times.
The Washington Post Charges for This Sage Advice
written by Larry Signor, May 08, 2014 10:06
Premium news and analysis...right. You can't know if you like a horse until you ride it (that's free advice).

Dean is right, The Fix needs fixed.
How Many Were Uninsured, Low-rated comment [Show]
5.4 Million of the 8 million were newly insured
written by Dean, May 08, 2014 12:17

it was actually 5.8 million were newly insured http://hrms.urban.org/quicktak...rance.html
And the vast majority of these people bought silver plans or better, meaning that they didn't just get the lowest cost plan to avoid the penalty.
Expectations of Expectations
written by Last Mover, May 08, 2014 12:51
What's perhaps most striking is that 43 percent of people correctly stated that the law signed up 8 million people, but less than half of them knew that this exceeded expectations.

Essentially, what happened is that Americans have gotten so used to the string of bad news about Obamacare that they simply filed away the sign-ups news in the same folder. And while the White House attempted to play up the news with its "victory lap" news conference, Americans just aren't all that keen on this kind of process story.

All of which suggests that the health-care law needs a far more substantial -- and sustained -- string of good news before Americans' perceptions of the law show any real shift toward the better.

And people shouldn't expect that to happen any time soon.

Uh huh. So if people paid attention to expectations they would know Obamacare was a success. But since they didn't they wrote it off as failure due to ... past expectations of serial failure.
What A Scam!
written by Ellis, May 08, 2014 12:53
The study you cite says that the number of people who gained insurance increased by 5.8 million through the exchanges... and Medicaid.

The 8 million figure is supposed to be just for the exchanges.

You say that most people bought silver or better plans. That would makes sense, since in order to qualify for the subsidy, you have to have at least a silver plan. However, even with a silver plan, you are still responsible for 30 per cent of all your medical expenses... after paying the steep premiums. There is supposed to be a cap on out of pocket expenses, but that cap is so high, someone making $35,000 could easily have to fork out half their entire annual income for medical expenses, if they have a serious medical problem. What all the deductibles, co-pays and co-insurance (what's that, anyway?) do is discourage people from going to the doctor, except under the most desperate circumstances. That's why I call it fake insurance.
Ellis doesn't know the law
written by Tom, May 08, 2014 1:46
This is the problem. People like Ellis have no clue what the law is. Where do he get the idea you have to have at least a silver plan to qualify for a subsidy? As for all these supposed cancellations...how many people just went outside the exchange and got their insurance? you only use the exchange if you think you might qualify for a subsidy, otherwise take the easy route and go direct to the insurance company. I find it interesting that the insurance company execs would not participate in the republican name calling and lies on Obamacare when they were in front of them for a hearing the other day.

A response
written by Ellis, May 08, 2014 2:17
Tom, thanks -- you're right. You can get a bronze plan and still get a subsidy. But you have to admit, the ACA is incredibly complicated. And that means that the insurance companies will use the law to really screw over a lot of people.

Also, Tom, the insurance company executives refused to do the Republicans' bidding and attack the law... because the insurance companies wrote it!
Ellis also doesn't know where private insurance was headed.
written by Joe T., May 08, 2014 2:22
I get my insurance from a failing company who has frozen their contributions years ago. So my policy choices have morphed over the years to look like what you're describing, and what you see being offered by Obamacare. Slowly, I've seen higher and higher deductibles and higher out-of-pocket costs over time, starting from well before Obamacare became law.

I'm afraid the new plans under Obamacare will be compared to older plans with better benefits, which insurance companies wouldn't be offering now even if there were no Obamacare.
Obamacare Is Not the Cure
written by Ellis, May 08, 2014 2:40
Obamacare just shuffles people into private insurance.

But just because they have insurance, it doesn't at all mean that they will be able to afford health care. And considering how restrictive and narrow the networks of doctors and hospitals are in all these plans, even when they do get care, it will be inferior.
written by skeptonomist, May 08, 2014 2:57
The Fix's take on the popularity of Obamacare is absolutely right, at least for the moment. The approval rating did not change much either way through the rollout debacle and Republican propaganda barrage, then the recovery and meeting of the initial objectives. By this time it should be obvious that the response on polls is mainly determined by partisanship and/or ideology, not on how accurate or complete the media coverage is. This suggests that it won't be changing many votes either way between now and November.

Maybe as the program moves toward the ultimate goal of insuring about 25 million people its ratings will improve, but this will not necessarily have a major political impact either. Medicare is definitely a liberal, Democratic-party program - Republicans opposed it from the beginning - but not all seniors on Medicare vote Democratic. Republicans still have platforms that basically call for severe curtailment if not elimination of Medicare. Obamacare will fall under the same rubric of "entitlements". After things shake out, there is no reason why its costs will not continue to go up at the same rate as medical care in general.
Really, insurance plans are crappier, irrespective of Obamacare
written by Joe T., May 08, 2014 6:27
Ellis said:
"And considering how restrictive and narrow the networks of doctors and hospitals are in all these plans, even when they do get care, it will be inferior."

Please investigate the average Medicare Advantage plan. Obamacare has had only minor effects on these plans. But the networks in these plans have narrowed extensively in the past few years. Year by year, ever narrower networks.

Capitalism works well with correctly designed incentives. For-profit medical *anything* (insurance, hospitals, equipment, drugs) has the profit motive as the predominant incentive. Thus, we get narrower networks (and lots of other anti-care "innovations") because they reduce costs (with the goal to increase profits or stay competitive).
written by urban legend, May 08, 2014 11:01
Ellis --

You really are susceptible to believing the crap Fox News wants you to hear. In fact, the law is not particularly complicated. It's virtually identical to Romneycare, which over several years and despite the highest healthcare costs in the country, has succeeded in assuring coverage for between 95 and 98% of the population. It's also very similar to the Swiss plan that relies heavily on private insurers. It was the Republican plan for striving for universal coverage. It was really the simplest plan possible when it was clear that single-payer would be a political impossibility.

The only reason the Republicans turned into opponents -- yes, the ONLY reason -- was that Obama adopted it in the naive belief it would get bipartisan support. The Republicans were not going to allow him that satisfaction, and with the Hastert Rule and the Norquist pledge (to a lobbyist!), the opposition was forced to be 100% of the party. Why don't you ask why the Republicans had control of the Congress, the Presidency and the Supreme Court for six years and did absolutely nothing to address this enormous national problem?

8 million people forced to buy health insurance. Not allowed. Forced.
written by Rachel, May 10, 2014 10:50

Forcing lower-middle income to buy overpriced insurance, without dealing with the colossal inefficiencies in our system: this is what the ACA does, and this is how we hollow out the middle class.

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About Beat the Press

Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He is the author of several books, his latest being The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive. Read more about Dean.