March 24, 2010

scary, confusing health care reform

The Kaiser Foundation polled 2,002 American adults in January on their feelings about the health care legislation being debated in Congress.  I think most of it's pretty useless, but this question in particular caught my eye:

As of right now, do you generally (support) or generally (oppose) the health care proposals being discussed in Congress? (Is that strongly support/oppose or somewhat support/oppose?) (ROTATE OPTIONS IN PARENTHESES)
Based on one-half sample (n=980)  01/10
Strongly support   19%
Somewhat support   23%
Somewhat oppose   10%
Strongly oppose   31%
Don’t know/Refused   16%
Support (42%) vs Oppose (41%) is pretty even, but intensity is distributed unevenly.  People who oppose the proposals really oppose them, and people who support the proposals just sort of support them a bit.

No doubt opponents of the legislation will latch onto that as "proof" that even people who like it don't like it that much.  I, however, don't think that's what this says at all.

Health care legislation is unbelievably complex.  Other than the military, I can't think of any other topic the government takes on that has more special interests entrenched in more ways, with more at stake.  It's an utter mess right now, and trying to fix it is like sending a rookie pet groomer into a small room containing all the animals from the San Diego zoo.  If the lions and gorillas don't get her, the snakes most certainly will.  (And watch out for that koala.  Seriously.)

Anyway, because it's so complex, no one really understands it.  I'd bet even the authors don't understand their own legislation fully.  (These are the same people, after all, that thought it important to rename "french fries" to "freedom fries" when the French declined our invitation to participate in America's worst foreign policy decision in history.)

The implications and ultimate consequences of health care reform, both intended and unintended, are unfathomable.  That makes it easy to oppose and difficult to support.  It's human nature to oppose confusing changes, even if those changes ultimately will be beneficial.  If the changes are confusing, it's hard to know for sure whether they're beneficial.  And all those entrenched special interests have an easy time making them seem ever more confusing and scary.


Blogless Troll said...

What's really amazing is how American foreign policy -- a field in which most Americans have limited knowledge and no direct experience, and which hinges upon information gathered by agencies that traffic in secrecy -- is so uncomplicated and clear cut. I agree, life is so much easier when we only see what we want to see.

Ello - Ellen Oh said...

We were just having a serious discussion about how much we don't know on this exact issue. I was actually ashamed of myself - but I was sitting with smart professionals and all any of us could say was that we needed it but didn't really understand what was being proposed. Again, why must this be so difficult?