While I was time-wasting on Facebook or Twitter or whatever it was the other day, I came across a Kaiser Family Foundation quiz about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, now commonly known as the ACA. Since I spend at least 94.7% of my time dealing with issues related to the ACA, I figured I’d take the 10-question quiz and see how I’d do. Thankfully I got them all right, which was an extreme relief to me since I am asked to talk about it frequently and I don’t want anyone to mistake me for a FOX news commentator. You can take the quiz yourself by clicking HERE.
I sent the quiz around to a bunch of my healthcare-focused friends too. I got lots of emails from friends who them got 9 or 10 out of 10 right; of course, I didn’t get any emails from healthcare pals who did worse, probably because they are still re-reading the law to brush up.
What was particularly interesting to me about the quiz is that it touches on 10 areas of the law about which there has been much hype, much misinformation and the creation of some full-on urban myths that have penetrated some of our cultural discourse. Among these myths are that the ACA will force all small employers to provide insurance, will create a massive government run health insurance plan and will provide undocumented immigrants with federal funds to buy insurance. And, of course, there are always the death panels. It is always sobering to realize how easily people will latch on to what they hear from so-called experts, even when the statement of “fact” seems suspiciously hard to believe or even silly. “Well,” we say to ourselves, “they are experts so they must know. I don’t have time to Google for the truth. I guess Obama was actually born in Kenya and sworn in on a Koran instead of a Bible.”
On the Internet, the website called Snopes.com has become the go-to reference for checking out urban myths, urban legends and popular culture rumors and misinformation. As I thought about the quiz and the ACA itself, I wondered whether it had become such a pop culture phenomenon that it had made it all the way to Snopes territory, alongside rumors of Richard Gere and his gerbil; that eating Pop Rocks while ingesting soda will kill you; and that a make-out session on Lovers Lane ended with the discovery of a bloody hook hanging from the car door handle.
Lo and behold, the answer is yes! Snopes has an entire medical section (there is some great stuff here if you need a laugh) and, no surprise, the urban myths found on Snopes about the ACA are especially silly. Here is a sampling:
- ACA requires all patients to be implanted with RFID microchips by 2013. The truth is that the Medical Device Registry established will keep unique tracking numbers on implanted medical devices, such as hips and knees, so people can be contacted if there is a recall/failure issue.
- Citizens will be required to get euthanasia counseling every 5 years in order to ease demands on Medicare. The truth is that patient-requested end of life counseling would become a covered benefit if this provision had made it into the law, which it didn’t because morons were worried it was “too easily subject to misinterpretation.”
- No one over 75 wil be given a major medical procedure without approval of an ethics panel. The truth is that the ACA does not include a provision to create “death panels,” but in my professional opinion our gene pool would be much improved if we used one to weed out the people who intentionally spread inaccurate information for political gains.
This Snopes-worthy stuff would be hilarious if it weren’t the firmly held beliefs of some of our actual citizens and, worse, widely-watched TV personalities. As I looked back at the Kaiser Family Foundation quiz, I was particularly taken by the fact that only 45% of Americans correctly answered the death panel question: Will the health reform law allow a government panel to make decisions about end-of-life care for people on Medicare? (Correct answer: no). Furthermore, despite the unbelievable amount of news that was disseminated about the ACA, only 27% of people have answered the following question correctly: Will the health reform law create a new government run insurance plan to be offered along with private plans? (Correct answer: no). The incorrect answers persist despite the fact that the Supreme Court has now upheld the law and the amount of news coverage that occurred around that process exceeds only the amount of news coverage that has accompanied news of the Tom Cruise-Katie Holmes divorce (Correct answer: because he’s a nut job).
When the Kaiser Family Foundation originally published this quiz in December 2010, they did a study of results as of February 2011 that showed that less than 1% of Americans got all 10 questions right and most Americans got about half right. In fact, about 76% got 6 or fewer of the answers right. Specifically on the death panel question, the same percentage of people is getting that answer wrong in July 2012 as were in February 2011. When we talk about legislation, the fact that the public is uninformed on the particulars would not normally be surprising. But considering the amount of public dinner table discourse on this particular law, it is pretty sad to think about how much misinformation has informed people’s world view and continues to do so going into the next election. That is not a commentary on whether one should vote for or against Obama or Romney, but rather a lamentation that the people who decide who should be our President are the same people who believe that Chihuahuas cure asthma by “taking it on” from children and that if you inject Pantene shampoo you will get high.
Our best hope as a nation is that the Darwin Awards will continue to do their great work recognizing the importance of removing stupidity from the gene pool. Their motto: We salute the improvement of the human genome by honoring those who accidentally remove themselves from it… Now there’s change we can believe in.