What is Obamacare? Guaranteed health insurance for those who want it

We still don’t seem to get it when it comes to health reform. And the more we hear about the law, the less we appear to understand.

Last week, a Kaiser Family Foundation poll reported that 22% of the public thinks Obamacare has been repealed, and 26% are not sure. Almost one-third of Republicans believe it is no longer the law.

To set the record straight, Obamacare has not been repealed by Congress, nor has it been blocked by the courts. The House of Representatives voted to rescind it, but the Senate refused to go along. On the judicial front, two federal judges have found a part of the law to be unconstitutional, but three others have found it fully valid.

Compared to misconceptions on other issues, the poll result is not so out of line. In a 2009 survey, 39% called for keeping the government out of Medicare, with 15% not sure. Another poll that year found 24% thinking President Obama was foreign-born, including 6% who believed his state of birth, Hawaii, is not a part of the United States. And in 2001, 6% agreed that the moon landing was faked, with 5% undecided.

A law as complex as health reform leaves lots of room for confusion. Why should we expect the public to understand it any better?

The details of Obamacare are, indeed, overwhelming. However, this hardly makes it unique. Many major government programs (and lots of private ones, as well) are complex. You can’t address something as complicated as health care with a simple response.

What makes Obamacare different from other programs is the public’s limited understanding of its core purpose. Even though they may not grasp all the details, most people know why we have Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. Even those who don’t realize that Medicare is a government program still tend to understand its goal - to guarantee health care for the elderly. Yet, many Americans have no idea why Congress enacted health reform.

Obamacare’s opponents make a point of stoking confusion, hoping to make the law seem hopelessly convoluted. Their message diverts attention from discussion of the law’s underlying goal.

How have health reform supporters responded? With incomprehensible ineptitude.

The Obama administration keeps fighting brush fires, trying to douse a steady barrage of misinformation. The Kaiser poll shows just how bad a job they are doing.

Instead of continually correcting details, health reform supporters should focus instead on a simple core message. Obamacare guarantees health coverage to everyone who wants it. Americans have never had that protection before. It will be a lifesaver for millions.

Would that be any harder to explain than the moon landing?

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