Details matter in discussion of health insurance

Now that Congress is on the road to repealing the Affordable Care Act — Obamacare — we’re reminded again how the country missed an opportunity to have an intelligent debate during the campaign on health care access.

Democrats, who are vocal now, didn’t do much to defend the health care law during the campaign because Republican attacks on the law worked perfectly, starting with calling it Obamacare.

So, how to explain this week’s poll from the Wall St. Journal and NBC News that showed for the first time since the law passed that more people like the law than don’t?


To be sure, the reaction to the law still breaks down along party lines.

A poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation this month is a little more detailed in which Republicans and Democrats agree that lowering the cost of out-of-pocket spending on health care is a priority.


Kaiser’s finding in the poll, however, found more people still objected to the law than favored it.


Kaiser’s phrasing of the question was significant. It started with, “Given what you know about the health care law…”

That’s the missing ingredient in many of the polls, as this bit from Jimmy Kimmel Live attests. Many people don’t know much.

On Monday, President-elect Donald Trump told The Washington Post he is almost finished with a plan to replace the Affordable Care Act with a proposal that would provide “insurance for everybody.”

In her appearance on PBS NewsHour on Monday, Susan Page of USA Today noted why it’s important to pay attention to the details of a statement and phrase like that.

“We think that it’s possible that he is — we’re moving toward is health care access for all, not coverage for all,” she said.

“There’s a big difference between coverage for all and universal access,” NPR’s Tamara Keith pointed out.

Details matter in the debate over health care in the United States, even if the American public isn’t really big on them.

Related: With health insurance rebates on Capitol agenda, individual market customers hope for political compromise (Star Tribune)