Since President Barack Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law in March of 2010, much controversy, confusion and commotion has followed. It is an issue of national importance, but in Knoxville and on the University of Tennessee’s campus, there are a wide array of views on this subject. Opinions range from absolute disapproval of the law to strong support with many people falling in between. But how did these opinions form and are they based on fact or fiction? Also, how are the facts concerning this law reaching the public? Several trends and sources provide answers to these questions.
The most recent trend regarding the ACA is the failure of its website. Upon its release on Oct. 1, only a half a million applications out of two million visits to the website have been submitted. This is attributed to the site’s inability to hold the large number of users who are trying to access it.
However, Randy Neal, president of BranchConnect, was able to successfully navigate the website. He says that after logging on, applying for insurance via the site was fairly straightforward, but he did encounter some problems.
“The site was acting real screwy a couple nights ago. I was looking at different coverage plans and there are supposed to be 65 or 67 and there were only 10 or 20 showing up,” Neal said.
Another unique trend occurring since the ACA’s inception is a question of name. While officially it is called the Affordable Care Act, it has been dubbed by many as ObamaCare. According to a poll carried out by CNBC, this difference in title has had a large effect on how people view the law.
CNBC polled two different groups, using “ObamaCare” for one and “Affordable Care Act” for the other. Forty six percent of those polled opposed ObamaCare while 37 percent opposed the Affordable Care Act. Also, 29 percent of those polled supported ObamaCare while 22 percent were in support of ACA. The disparity seems to lie within Americans’ tendency to derive opinion from Obama’s name alone rather than the actual details of the healthcare law’s plans.
This can also be seen in various interviews with students from the University of Tennessee.
Those who were questioned on ObamaCare seen in the video below have strong opinions regarding the ACA. There was clear approval and disapproval seen in most of the interviews.
However, those who were questioned about the Affordable Care Act seen in the video below had different answers. While there were some who approved or disapproved of it, some interviewees did not know the facts surrounding it at all.
The confusion regarding the Affordable Care Act does not end with its name though. Many people are unaware of the details about its insurance plans.
According to Becky Harmon, Knox County coordinator for the Tennessee Health Care Campaign, this lack of information can cause many uninformed citizens to have negativity towards this law.
“Everybody thinks it’s really bad (the ACA) and it isn’t, most of that is coming out of misinformation.” Harmon said. “They haven’t done the research, they just go with the negative.”
This is why Harmon is taking the initiative to inform people about the ACA and its insurance policies.
Her main role in the Knox County community is getting people ready to enroll. This encompasses explaining how the website works, the application process, and making sure people understand what the marketplace insurance plans look like. She plans to develop a class to help educate people about these aspects.
“We’re in the process of trying to come up with a short class on ‘Health Care 101.’ Just the basics,” Harmon said.
In addition to Harmon’s work on informing others about the ACA, other organizations in Tennessee have taken this initiative.
Jackie Shrago is a volunteer for Get Covered Tennessee, a private organization that helps uninsured Tennesseans gain access to timely and affordable health care.
With a background in entrepreneurship and interest in healthcare, Shrago decided to volunteer for this organization after being inspired by the implementation of the ACA. Her main goals are to inform people about the ACA and assist them with enrolling in it as well.
“My daily schedule is phone calls, emails, and making connections. I just want to share efficient information with those in need,” Shrago said.
There are also national organizations working to provide Americans with information about the ACA.
The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation is an example of this. This foundation provides a Health Insurance Subsidy Calculator to estimate how the ACA impacts families financially. With this calculator, one can enter different income levels, ages, and family sizes to get an estimate for his or her eligibility for grants and how much he or she could spend on health insurance.
However, just as there are complaints about the ACA from those who are uninformed, other criticisms have developed over misinformation regarding it.
Some complaints include a rise in unemployment or a lack of full-time job positions after the ACA is implemented. When consulting factcheck.org though, this is proven false.
According to the website, the Republican National Committee’s claim that 8.2 million Americans won’t be able to find full-time work as a result of the ACA is false. There were actually more Americans seeking these 30-hour-a-week positions in 2010 when the bill was signed into law than there are now.
It also cites a 2010 report by the Congressional Budget Office that estimated a decrease of labor in the economy by .5 of a percent. This decrease is not primarily a result of the law. That projected decrease is actually caused by Americans with jobs choosing to work fewer hours as well as some people affording to retire early.
Despite the complaints, misinformation, and problems regarding the ACA, only time will tell what effects it will have on the Americans who choose to use it and those who do not.
This article is the combined work of several students from the University of Tennessee’s School of Journalism.
Edited by Jennifer Brake