The White House and its allies continue their reeducation campaign about Obamacare, trying to convince people they should like this massive health-care overhaul after all, and it appears that their latest tool is deceptively worded opinion polls.
The National Council on Aging, for example, just released a survey that’s astonishingly misrepresentative. The NCOA asked 636 seniors true-or-false questions about “the top twelve facts” they should know about Obamacare. Only 17 percent knew the “right” answers to half of the questions; not a single person got a perfect score. The news release read: “Most Seniors Misinformed, Unaware of Key Provisions of the Affordable Care Act.”
But it was the pollsters and the NCOA who got the answers wrong, not the seniors. With a lawyerly parsing of words, the questions were designed to obscure and even deceive. Here are a few examples:
• “The new law will result in future cuts to your basic Medicare benefits.” By more than two to one, seniors said the statement was true; the survey said that was wrong.
• “The new law is projected to increase the federal budget deficit over the next ten years and beyond.” By more than three to one, seniors said that was true; the survey said that was wrong.
• “The health care reform law will cut Medicare payments to doctors.” Seniors said true by three to one; wrong answer, according to the survey.
They are entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts. A few facts:
• The health-care law takes $575 billion out of Medicare over the next ten years to pay for massive new entitlement programs.
• The Medicare actuary says that at least one in six Medicare providers, including hospitals, nursing homes, and physicians, could be operating at a loss by 2019 and could end their participation in the program, which could “possibly jeopardize access to care for beneficiaries.”
• More than 7 million seniors will lose their Medicare Advantage coverage, and millions more will find access to care restricted. The Congressional Budget Office found that seniors enrolled in Medicare Advantage will lose an average of $800 a year in benefits.
• As Rep. Paul Ryan explained at the Blair House summit in February, “When you strip out the double-counting and . . . gimmicks, the full ten-year cost of the bill has a $460 billion deficit. The second ten-year cost of this bill has a $1.4 trillion deficit.”
• The legislation keeps scheduled cuts in payments to doctors, which is why the Congress passed a separate “doc fix” bill in June to keep doctor payments from being cut by 21 percent.
Seniors know you can’t take $575 billion out of Medicare and not have it affect their benefits. Many already are having difficulty finding providers that take Medicare.
Funnily enough, NCOA also found that seniors are not satisfied that the information they are getting about the new law is “accurate and reliable.” Clearly, the NCOA is not the place to go for accurate and reliable information. This survey deserves to be tossed.
And NCOA isn’t alone; here’s another poll, released today by Kaiser, with similar questions.
Kaiser asked people about elements not included in the health-care law and found that a majority of seniors believed that it cuts “payments to doctors who see Medicare patients.” The legislation allows scheduled reductions in payments to physicians to continue and uses the money — double-counts it, in fact — as part of the fictional accounting that allowed legislators to pretend the $1 trillion health-care overhaul is “paid for.”
But seniors know the truth. Only 38 percent of them view the new law favorably, 46 percent unfavorably. The release says their opinions “remain roughly split.” That is a bit of a stretch; an eight-point spread with 38 percent support is hardly “split.”
There is a reason that the administration and its allies are now targeting their re-education campaign at seniors: They will be hit hardest. They know it, too: Kaiser found that 65 percent of seniors believe it will be harder for them to find a doctor willing to see them.
Pollster.com compiled an average of all of the polls, and they found 45 percent oppose and 42 percent favor the health-care law. Rasmussen, which polls likely voters, shows that 58 percent want it repealed. And that’s before people start to feel any of the impact of higher health costs, cuts to Medicare Advantage, higher taxes, and onerous and expensive mandates on individuals and businesses.
But the reeducation campaign nonetheless continues.
Published in National Review Online: Critical Condition, August 2, 2010.