Can the Media and the Public Handle the Health Reform News?
In a January Pulling It Together column, Kaiser Family Foundation CEO Drew Altman said all the action challenging the Affordable Care Act would likely bring confusion. He challenged the media to report accurately the impact of activity in the House:
A likely result of a repeal vote in the House will be even greater public confusion. In our December tracking poll, we found that 43% of the public said they were still “confused” about the law (confusion was the public’s dominant feeling – 30% said they were “angry” and 33% said they were “enthusiastic”). How many people will think the law has actually been repealed (when it has not) if a repeal measure passes the House? We will test this in an upcoming tracking poll, but there is a real burden on the news media to explain clearly what has and has not happened (and that implementation of the law is continuing).
Sure enough, as Altman explains this month, the new tracking poll shows confusion and misunderstanding:
I am seldom surprised by our poll findings, but this month’s tracking poll produced a doozy. Twenty-two percent of the American people think the Affordable Care Act has been repealed, and another 26 percent aren’t sure. Those are surprisingly large numbers even with the 52 percent who still know it is the law of the land.
I don’t know that Altman is really that surprised, considering his prediction last month and the fact that there have been some high-profile legal rulings against the Act. But the findings do tee up an interesting political calculation for pro and anti-ACA forces: whether and how hard to push the fight on health reform. Sure people care, but how much will they evolve their views based on legislative actions at this point? I actually suspect there will be plenty more maneuvering because the stakes are so high and the ideological divide so deep.