Monday, December 14, 2009

Who's to blame for the public's health care ignorance?

In a letter quoted in the New York Times Stanford health economist Victor Fuchs concludes that the public is ignorant about not only health care reform but also the health care system itself:

Despite all the media coverage (or maybe because of it), most of the public has a very limited understanding of the health care system and health policy. They think the insurance companies are the main problem. They think an employer mandate is a good idea because employers pay for care. They want to control cost, but oppose every policy that might do that except for thinking that drug company and insurance company profits are too high. They say they want everyone to have access to care but only one in four favors an individual mandate.

While doing research for my paper about the now-defunct pubic option, I read a lot of the media coverage of the various reform proposals. My conclusion was that even the most thoughtful, analytical sources (to say nothing of the carnival barkers masquerading as newsmen) fail to lay out the issues simply and clearly.

Maybe it's because no one wants to pay attention long enough to understand our health care system, what's wrong with it, and how it might be fixed. It's not terribly sensational. Maybe it just can't compete for our attention with the titillating infidelities of sports heros. But the public can't bear all of the responsibility for its own ignorance.

Even if people were paying attention, they'd be hard-pressed to find the basic facts.

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