ESCANABA - Shortly after President Obama signed health care reform into law, a USA Today/Gallup Poll found 49 to 40 percent of Americans said it was a "good thing" rather than a bad one. Around 48 percent described the law as "a good first step" that should be followed with more action. A third of those surveyed, 31 percent, said the bill makes the wrong types of changes. Only 8 percent said the system doesn't need reform.
Fast-forward a year.
The results of a new Associated Press (AP)-GfK poll, published by CBS News in January, found 40 percent support the law, while 41 percent oppose it. One in four people said they wanted to do away with the law completely; 43 percent said it should do more to re-engineer the health care system.
The nation has remained divided over health care reform pretty much since day one. But, there is one aspect of health care reform that boths sides can agree on: no one understands what it does. An AP poll conducted by Stanford University between Aug. 31 and Sept. 7 tested residents knowledge of the bill. Interviews were done with 1,251 randomly-chosen adults nationwide. More than half of those questioned mistakenly said the bill would raise taxes for "most people this year" (this is only true for people who use indoor tanning, because the law hit the industry with a sales tax). According to CBS News, some of those surveyed didn't realize that some of the provisions they cared about actually made it into the bill.
So, what's going on? Why are so many clueless about a piece of legislation that has the power to dramatically alter health care in America?
There are many factors at play here. Health Care Reform is long and complex. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act alone is 906 pages long. Add to that a lot of misinformation and skewed facts, mix in a little rage, people shouting from either side of aisle and general public distrust. What is the end result? A general population of people who are somewhat clueless, or just don't know what the truth is or who to believe.
Around a month and a half ago, I contemplated writing a blog about health care reform. Honestly, I didn't know where to begin. I didn't know the first thing about the bill, other than it raised people's blood pressures and a few tidbits here and there.
That's when I came up with the daunting, unbelievable and perhaps heinous idea of reading the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and blogging about it. I'd read some legislation before, why not?
Of course, I'd need time to do it. So, basically, my plan evolved into reading 18-20 pages of the bill a week - for the next year.
I'm still alive. Yes. Do I wish I wouldn't have made this "brilliant" plan public, so as to not set myself up for a very large and witnessed failure? Sometimes. Do I feel like maybe I got in over my head? Sometimes.
Do I enjoy it?
I'm six weeks into my "little" endeavor and I've learned a lot about health care reform. (Also, I've learned about subsections and subtitles and that sometimes in order to say something, legislation must be written as a sort of double negative, i.e. instead of saying only orange umbrellas are permitted, it will say umbrellas that are every color with the exception of orange are not permitted - which to me is a waste of words) I sometimes re-read things. I often reference a slew of online resources for help (all of which I document).
Since January, hundreds have read my blog. No one has commented, so I am not sure at this point if most people think I'm crazy, or whether they can stomach the tediousness of the blog to get to the end. Either way, I continue on my journey, with purpose.
What is that purpose?
To try to understand this complicated piece of legislature that has the potential to drastically change health care in America.
I hope it does.
I hope I finish reading it.
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EDITOR'S NOTE: Mary Ann Heath is news editor at the Daily Press. You can find her blog, 'Mary, Mary on the Contrary' at the Daily Press website www.dailypress.net/page/blogs.listAll/display/19/Mary-Ann-Heath.html