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Consumers place little trust in the media for ACA info

By Anthony Brino
11:18 AM
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While public confusion over the Affordable Care Act continues, according to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation survey, Americans tend to trust some sources of information more than others — including clinicians still grappling with the law’s ramifications.

For consumers, Kaiser researchers wrote, the “most trusted sources of information on the law are not necessarily the ones people are most likely to be hearing from.”

The 1,503 adults surveyed in August pointed to doctors, nurses, pharmacists and state and federal health agencies as their most trusted source of information about the ACA, whose flagship policy — a new insurance marketplace — takes effect in October.

Young adults were especially likely to cite federal and state agencies as trusted sources, but young people and those of other ages said he media, family and friends were their most common sources of health reform information — at the same time that they singled out the media as worthy of their skepticism.

[See also: The great EHR market shakeout is coming, but when?]

Almost 45 percent of the respondents, from a variety of age groups, said they put “a lot” of trust doctors and nurses information on the ACA; 34 percent said they trust federal agencies a lot, 33 percent state agencies, 30 percent pharmacists, 21 percent employers, 21 percent churches, 20 percent community organizations and 18 percent family and friends.

Meanwhile, only 15 percent of the respondents said they place a lot of trust in the information provided by insurance companies — and only 8 percent said they have a lot of trust in the media.

That clinicians are considered by many as among the top-trusted is interesting because only half of Americans surveyed by HealthPocket in July said they’ve talked with their doctors about health reform, and a recent LocumTenens survey found physicians expressing wide uncertainty over how new insurance rules would affect their practices.

About of the 479 surveyed docs were “not at all familiar” with how the claims processes for new insurance policies sold in public marketplaces would work, and 67 percent were not at all familiar with patient coverage terms, such as grace periods, that might affect payment for services — and indeed those rules, such as for claims liability, remain to be finalized.

The Kaiser survey also found the kinds of health reform misunderstandings that policy makers — and anyone with a vested interested in expanding the ranks of the insured — have been worried about. More than 40 percent of those surveyed by Kaiser said they believed the ACA had been repealed, overturned or in some other form of legal limbo.

The fact that some media outlets sometimes refer to the ACA as a “bill” or “legislation” may partly contribute to this, along with the very nature of the law — a comprehensive and very lengthy set of regulations, phased in over several years, covering dozens of federal policies for hospitals, insurers, physicians, pharmaceutical companies, government health programs, employers and taxpayers.

Still, the Kaiser survey found sizable number of the public trying to understand the law. About 36 percent of those polled said they’ve sought out more information about the ACA, about half of them starting with general internet searches — ending up, one would hope, on reliable consumer information websites like those run by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

As October approaches, insurance exchanges and the agencies, companies and groups supporting them will have to tailor their outreach and education strategies to make sure people know what insurance they need and know what they’re buying.