If you wonder why the health insurance industry has to set up front groups and secretly funnel cash to industry-funded coalitions to influence public policy, take a look at the most recent results of the Kaiser Family Foundation’s monthly Health Tracking Poll.
In its November poll, KFF added a few new survey questions to find out exactly which parts of the Affordable Care Act/Obamacare are the most popular and which are the least popular. Insurers were no doubt annoyed to see that the provision of the law they want most — the requirement that all of us will have to buy coverage from them if we’re not eligible for a public program like Medicare — continues to be the single most hated part of the law. More than 60 percent of Americans have an unfavorable opinion of that mandate.
When it comes to what Americans like most about the law, the runaway winner is one of the provisions insurers most despise–the one that requires them to provide us with easy-to-understand benefit summaries. That element of the reform law was viewed favorably by a whopping 84 percent of the public.
Until now, insurers have been able to get away with providing skimpy and often incomprehensible information about their benefit plans, including what is covered and what is not and how much policyholders will have to pay out of their own pockets if they get sick or injured. The insurance firms have shown no willingness to communicate with their customers in a more forthright way, which is why an act of Congress was necessary to get them to do just that.
As I wrote a few weeks ago, the industry and its allies are lobbying the Obama administration to ignore that part of the law, arguing that to comply will cost millions of dollars that insurers would have to pass on to consumers. The companies insist that providing understandable information allowing us to compare plans serves no purpose that would justify the additional cost.
The reality is this: the estimated cost of compliance is just a tiny fraction of what insurance firms charge for their policies these days. No, the real reason for the industry’s pushback is that insurers profit from our ignorance.
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