“I don’t know much about art, but I know what I like.”
Like most funny lines, that classic quip is wryly humorous because it has an unmistakable grain of truth. I am reminded of the line as I read stories about the American public’s attitudes toward Obamacare (or, as I like to call it, the UN-Affordable Care Act). Since polling indicates that most Americans’ votes this fall will be influenced by the new health care law, you can be sure that most might easily say “I don’t know much about health care, but I know what I like.” Or, more to the point for many, “what I don’t like.”
Normally, I am loathe to say that Americans don’t understand something. I think that the citizenry is far too often put down by the political elite, and I am repelled by the way people in Washington, D.C., refer to non-Washingtonians as “real people” — while doing the quote-unquote thing with their hands.
However, when it comes to healthcare, I think it’s fair to say that most Americans honestly don’t understand the gobbledygook of it all. It’s a labyrinth created by multiple layers of government and big-insurance bureaucracy that has left most of us confused about premiums, deductibles, in-network, out-of-network, negotiated rates, HMOs versus PPOs, pre-existing conditions, self-insured, fully insured, FSAs, HSAs, pre-tax, post-tax, and on and on. It is my personal belief that those “explanation of benefits” mailings from health insurance companies beat even the tax code when it comes to head-scratching lack-of-sense.
It’s not our fault that we don’t understand. After all, “health care” is actually not even an accurate term for what it usually refers to, which is the regulation of health insurance. So let’s call it what it is. The Affordable Care Act was not health care reform, it was health insurance reform. And why would anyone understand that, when we generally don’t understand health insurance anyway?
Furthermore, why would we understand health insurance, considering these facts:
- We may never have actually selected and purchased it ourselves (we rely on employers or the government to provide it to us); and
- It has almost nothing practical in common with the insurance we are familiar with, those policies that we do select and purchase ourselves (like car, renters and homeowners insurance).
What most people are left with, on this issue, is basic common sense and our gut instincts, much like looking at a piece of art that you don’t understand, per se, but you have an important and legitimate emotional reaction to. And the bottom line is that our basic common sense and instincts matter. And they will inform our votes in November in a way that is also important and legitimate.
Think about it this way:
- We don’t know much about health insurance, but we know that it makes us angry when we have to pay huge amounts, out-of-pocket, for health care expenses when we already pay a sky-high monthly premium to the Insurance Gods in the Sky.
- We don’t know much about health care, but we know we don’t like it when we have to wait an hour to see the doctor.
- We don’t know much about Obamacare, but we know we’d very much like to keep our doctor when we like our doctor.
- We don’t know much about our own “benefits,” from our jobs, but we know we don’t like worrying about whether our insurance plan will cover something or whether we’ll be able to afford a higher premium next year.
- We don’t know much about the ‘“individual mandate,” but we know that we don’t like it when the government forces us to buy something we may not want or need.
It’s okay to know what you like and don’t like, even if you don’t fully understand it. And it’s okay to let your instincts influence your vote. Americans should continue to trust their instincts on health care.