Hats off to the Chicago Tribune's Eric Zorn for his editorial on the sorry state of public understanding about health care reform. With support hovering near 40% and sliding downward, the outlook seems grim.
What makes this so sad is that the public, and naysayers in particular, don't understand that which they oppose. A sampling:
- Only 15% knew that the Congressional Budget Office estimates health care reform would reduce the federal deficit by $100 billion over the next 10 years. Among Republicans, this level of understanding drops by half - to 7%. When informed of the savings, 56% indicate they are more likely to support reform.
- An August 2009 Public Policy Polling survey asked, “Do you think government should stay out of Medicare?” Nearly 60% percent of Republicans said yes, compared to 25% of liberals or 29% of moderates. Of course, this is a trick question - Medicare has been a government-run program since the Johnson administration started it 45 years ago.
Do Obama and his administration deserve heat for a lackluster, ineffective educational campaign? Absolutely. Seventy percent of Americans find the issue hard to understand. It's made even more disappointing by the fact that Obama ran such a pervasive and highly effective social media-based election campaign.
Fair is fair, though. The public also bears responsibility for forming largely partisan, knee-jerk opinions on matters which they clearly do not understand. It's a fundamental problem - how can one run an effective democracy when voters don't understand the issues?
Next up: a bipartisan, televised "summit" on health care reform scheduled for this Thursday, Feb. 25. Obama has challenged Republicans to bring their plans for lowering health care costs and covering the more than 30 million uninsured.
The Kaiser Family Foundation has a side-by-side comparison of the bills, along with cost savings estimates.