Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Test (Or Prove) Your Ignorance About Obamacare

Here's a short Kaiser Health Reform quiz with ten "yes" or "no" questions to test if you really know the key points about the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).  You can take it and see how you compare with the rest of the country before reading further.

While the quiz responses are being continuously updated the picture has hardly changed since a Kaiser analysis of the responses in February 2011, a year after the passing of the law.  It shows less than 1% of Americans getting all 10 answers right.  Worse, (given the bell shape of a normal distribution) even monkeys pulling levers with these yes or no choices would have done better than Americans actually did.  That's because the Americans' average score was under 5 while blind guessing or coin toss would get you 5 out of 10 correct on average.  (Assuming you ignore the "don't know" option as that is throwing away the question without even trying to score.)

This may largely explain why half the Americans are opposed to Obamacare - they don't even know what's in it.  True, Obamacare has way too many flaws and limitations but at least it makes the overall US health care situation better than before. 

I have another hypothesis which may be fun to test if the quiz respondents are also asked to state their political affiliations - whether they are / lean Democrat, Republican (or are truly independent).  I expect Republicans on average to fare worse on this quiz, i.e., they are more ignorant about this law.  Here's why:
 (a) True to human nature their political leanings and prejudices make them subconsciously block out facts about a law that they associate with Democrats.
(b) They get their news mainly from sources like "Fair and Balanced" Fox News where facts take a back seat to furthering Republican causes.
(c) People living in red states (by definition Republican dominated) that are largely in the US hinterland tend to be less well read or informed about the issues and simply go by what their favorite politicians tell them. Remember the "Keep Government out of My Medicare" slogans of Tea Party protesters?

In his July 16 column "Five Obamacare Myths" in NYTimes, Bill Keller does a good job killing some of the biggest pieces of misinformation. He followed it up today with "More Myths of Obamacare" by refuting some of the blow back, mostly from special interests and political opponents, and addressing three more myths.  I wonder though about the "taking the horse to the water" factor, as to how much of such fine work actually reaches the people who are the least informed, or the most misinformed. 

Back to the quiz, if you did score well on it, congratulations!  You're also then an outlier, or not a typical American.  Or un-American, in Tea Party parlance.

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