This would be tough even without the shameful politicization of the Affordable Care Act. It's a complicated industry and the legislation that determines who gets what - and at what price - doesn't make things any easier. So, according to polls, you have people who don't realize they're eligible for financial assistance, others who believe that their premiums will increase when in fact they'll fall (and vice versa), and still others, mainly undocumented immigrants, who believe they can sign up for coverage when in fact that they can't. Outreach efforts by both the government and private groups could help narrow the knowledge gap. From the Daily News:
The findings of the survey are not surprising to health care workers like Howard Kahn, president of L.A. Care Health Plan, the nation's largest public health plan with more than 1 million members. The county program serves residents through Medi-Cal and Healthy Families among others. The organization has launched several initiatives to educate those in clinic settings, for example, to help the public understand who qualifies for coverage. They also have information on lacare.org. "It's a big change," Kahn said of the provisions under the Affordable Care Act. "You expect people to be confused. People are confused about health care insurance in general." He said the good news is people are discussing insurance, especially those who need it. "I am concerned that six months or a year from now people are still confused about it," he said.
From this week's Business Update on KPCC:
Steve Julian: Doesn't L.A. have a higher percentage of uninsured than elsewhere?
Mark Lacter: Considerably higher - the Census Bureau says that 21 percent did not have coverage in 2012, which is higher than the overall national number. Now, there are a bunch of reasons for this: L.A. has a large percentage of households that simply can't afford health insurance or don't have access to government programs. You also have big numbers of people who are self-employed and don't get covered - we're talking about freelancers or consultants of some sort.
Julian: ...Or, they work for small businesses whose owners either can't afford, or don't want to provide coverage...
Lacter: That's right - the new law only requires businesses with more than 50 full-time workers to offer health insurance, and a lot of small businesses don't meet that threshold. The Census Bureau says that in the L.A. area, one in four people with jobs do not have health insurance - and, by the way, there's been a drop-off in the percentage of businesses in California that offer coverage.
Julian: Sounds dire. Who picks up the cost?
Lacter: Well, we all do in one way or another - and that, of course, is the problem. What the Affordable Care Act offers is a start in getting some of the uninsured onto the rolls. Clearly, it's an imperfect solution that will require all sorts of adjustments, and even though everyone and their uncle seems to have formed a definitive opinion about the new law, it's going to be years before there's any real sense of how it's going. And, let's remember, signing up for these programs is not some political act. It's just a way for people to get health insurance for themselves and their families.