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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Combating lies and misinformation: Yes we can!

Kate Blocher

Staff Writer

Remember this time last year? The infamous “August Recess of 2009.” Town hall meetings filled to capacity with both supporters of reform touting the benefits of the pending health reform legislation and opponents spewing out lies and rhetoric claiming the bill would “kill grandma” or “ruin America.” Thank goodness that’s all over, right? We’ve passed health reform, the Affordable Care Act is now law and people are finally seeing through the lies to realize all the benefits they will gain from the new law. Well, not quite.

Although it has been over five months since the Affordable Care Act was signed into law, many Americans are not only unaware of the benefits of the new law; they still believe many of the myths that were floating around during the debate. According to an article in USA Today,

in three separate polls conducted last month, Americans were asked, true or false: The new health care law will cut Medicare benefits for seniors. It will slash Medicare payments to doctors. It will ration health care. A large percentage of them answered yes to all three statements. The problem? All three are false.

Not only is there still a lot of confusion amongst the American people regarding the new law, but what they do claim to know about the Affordable Care Act is often wrong, and in some cases pretty outrageous. That’s why many consumer advocacy groups, Families USA included, have embarked on public education campaigns across the country. With several of the provisions set to kick in on September 23, 2010, it’s necessary to reach out to the public to ensure that they not only know about the provisions, but that they are receiving correct information about the law.

Families USA’s Kathleen Stoll outlined the provisions of the Affordable Care Act at a public forum in Philadelphia this month attended by about 250 people and hosted by the Pennsylvania Health Access Network, the Philadelphia Unemployment Project, and other local groups. Congressman Joe Sestak also spoke at the forum. Kathleen shared this impression of what people want to know:

We had a lot of good questions from the open mike in the audience. But what really made an impression on me was the number of people who stood in line to talk to me and the other speakers at the end of the forum – even though it wasn’t even air-conditioned in the church. They each wanted to ask about a son, daughter, niece, nephew, neighbor, friend, or their own problems finding and affording insurance coverage. They wanted to know what help they could personally look forward to getting – and the only negative comment I heard was, “We shouldn’t have to wait until 2014 for some of this help!” No one wanted to talk about repeal – they wanted to talk about speeding up the law’s implementation.

At multiple public forums Families USA has participated in, the response has been the same--a lot of misinformation and misunderstanding at the outset, followed by a very positive response when the audience learns what the Affordable Care Act really does.

So what can you do to try and combat the misinformation? Go out in your community, talk to your family, your friends, your neighbors and spread the word about all the benefits of the new law. Let them know what’s already in place or just around the corner: coverage extended to young adults up to the age of 26, tax credits for small businesses, coverage will no longer be denied to children with pre-existing conditions, and much more.

Want more information on the new law? We’ve compiled all of our pieces on the Affordable Care Act as well as work from other organizations here on our site: www.healthreformcentral.org. The Department of Health and Human Resources’s www.healthcare.gov is also a valuable resource for information.

Use your voice, it’s a powerful tool.

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