American's still learning about federal health care reform

March 28, 2014

By Rick Murdock

A new national survey you can learn about on our media page shows that Americans are split in thirds about the new federal health care reform – a third like it, a third don’t and a third aren’t sure – but seem to like many of the provisions it includes.

I suspect the same would be true if we polled people here in Michigan. People support the provisions that insurers can’t turn down those with pre-existing medical conditions, and that allow children to stay on their parent’s insurance plans until they are 26 – two provisions Michigan health plans have already instituted. And they like the idea that small businesses, under some conditions, can get tax credits to help make employee coverage more affordable.

But they don’t like the requirement in the law that starting in 2014, people without health insurance must buy it, or be penalized – even though you can’t have the other provisions without this mandate. Interestingly, most people are probably unaware that those who don’t have insurance today can use hospital emergency rooms – the most expensive place for basic health care – for their doctor office. And many of those without insurance do use the ER end up not paying their bills, shoving the cost onto those who do have insurance.

In fact, about $1,000 of a typical Michigan family’s health insurance premium is attributed to uncompensated care provided by hospitals and doctors. The mandate is a step toward reducing this payment. We’ll see if it works as the federal law is implemented in stages over the next three years.