Before we argue about Obamacare

The Kaiser Foundation created a short quiz of 10 true/false questions about Obamacare that does a pretty good job of illustrating how much misconception there is about the law. If you want to take the quiz without being “spoiled” do it now before reading further.

After taking the quiz I was told that I got a 10/10 (smoooooth brag) and that my score was better than 99.6% of people taking the quiz. This means that only 4 out of every 1,000 people who take the quiz are able to answer all the questions correctly. For the sake of comparison, flipping a coin should result in just about 1 out of every 1,000 people getting a perfect score. This is sort of depressing.

(I took this last week, but haven’t had a chance to write about it until now. I saved the output from then so if some of the numbers I quote below are different now, that’s why.)

Of the 10 questions asked, the question with the highest percentage of correct answers was this one:

Will the health reform law provide financial help to low and moderate income Americans who don’t get insurance through their jobs to help them purchase coverage?

This was the “easiest” question but still only 72% of people taking the quiz were able to answer that question (yes) correctly.

The question with the lowest percentage of correct responses was this one:

Will the health reform law require all businesses, even the smallest ones, to provide health insurance for their employees?

Only 25% of respondents were able to answer (no) correctly. This goes beyond any statistical possibility of chance. The fact that three quarters of respondents could not answer this question isn’t just about ignorance (pure guessing should have resulted in a 50% success rate) but about actual misinformation. Conservatives spent a year lying about what Obamacare would do before it was passed, and then after it was passed, they just kept on lying about what the bill contains. This is the result of their mendacity.

Another question with a high percentage of wrong answers was this one:

Will the health reform law create a new government run insurance plan to be offered along with private plans?

Maybe the reason that so many conservatives remain convinced that Obamacare is a Single Payer Trojan Horse is that this question was answered correctly (no) by only 27% of respondents.

One of the lies that Republicans used over and over in the 2010 congressional campaign and that Romney repeated after the SCOTUS decision was that Obamacare cut $500 billion from Medicare. Keep that in mind when looking at the results for this question:

Will the health reform law cut benefits that were previously provided to all people on Medicare?

The correct answer is no, but only 40% of people were able to answer correctly.

Remember: thousands of flipping coins would score ~50% on all these questions. Any aggregated result below 50% represents actual misinformation rather than just people guessing.

It’s nearly impossible to have a substantive debate about policy if all parties aren’t well-informed about the facts regarding the issue. If one side is deliberately spreading misinformation, it becomes even more difficult. Media hacks will point to quiz results like this and shake their heads sadly and say that the Obama administration has failed in its messaging, completely absolving themselves of their responsibility to inform the public.

Sometimes I’m not sure we deserve to survive as a species.

Author: Wiesman

Husband, father, video game developer, liberal, and perpetual Underdog.

11 thoughts on “Before we argue about Obamacare”

  1. I’m not sure if you’ll find this relevant or not but, having read NONE of the actual literature about the plan (I know, I know), I was able to answer 10 out of 10 correctly. I did this by reading each question as if it were being spoken by someone defending the new plan. Many of the questions are on the order of “Would the new plan do this incompletely stated or too-specificly-stated thing which would totally infuriate people who want smaller government or are afraid their current benefits will be reduced?”

    (I had something in here about the general readability of the questions, but it felt like grammar trolling, so skip it.)

    When I see, “Will the health reform law cut benefits that were previously provided to all people on Medicare?” I immediately think to myself, “Now why put it like that?” Could it be that there WILL be cuts to Medicare, but only benefits that were only available to SOME of the people? Perhaps it’s my suspicious nature; as I said, I don’t have the specific knowledge of the new plan to argue one way or the other.

    I guess this is more a commentary on the execution of the poll, rather than the content. Expecting an unbiased poll from either side of the argument is probably a pipe-dream, but my 10/10 would seem to point out this poll’s easily seen-through intent.

    1. Excellent point, Bill. I agree and noticed the same thing when I took the test. It’s almost like they are going out of their way to hint at the correct answer. I’m not sure if that means that the test is biased for or against the legislation, although it probably makes it less accurate at measuring actual knowledge of the law, and more accurate at identifying existing attitudes towards the law.

      Another explanation is that it was deliberately choosing questions that have been points of contention, and where misinformation has been prevalent.

      For example if the quiz had asked a question like, “Is it true that the new legislation allows children to stay on their parents’ insurance through age 26” I would expect the correct answer to be very high, because that’s a well-known but not particularly contentious feature of the law.

      I think it’s worth considering: you aren’t well-versed in the law. You take a test where the wording seems to hint at the correct answer. You use these hints to answer correctly. Other people take this test, but they still answer incorrectly at a much higher rate than mere chance would indicate, even with the embedded hinting. That, to me, is indicative of deliberate misinformation.

      The hinting in the test should have reduced that effect, so it’s persistence is noteworthy, imo.

  2. Great point Bill. I find it amusing how phrasing a question affects the answer and the perception of the question and answer. For example this cute little quiz asks this question:
    “Will the health reform law create a NEW government run insurance plan to be offered along with private plans?” (my emphasis on NEW) Of course the answer is, “No, the law will not do this.”
    But how would it affect the perception of the question and answer if it were worded something like this:
    “Will the health reform law EXPAND government’s influence on the entire medical profession?” The answer would be “Yes, the law will do this.”

    I bet the perception would really change if they added a few questions like:
    “Was this law designed deceptively to hide costs by making the taxing portion of the bill start years before the benefits kick in?” The answer would be “Yes, it was.”
    “The CBO cost estimating function was hoodwinked by including unworkable garbage like ‘CLASS ACT’ in the law. Will the actual costs be many times greater than originally estimates?” The answer would be “Yes, just like all government programs the actual cost will be much greater than originally estimated.”

    1. How did you do on the quiz, Gary?

      I agree with the argument that the law was designed to score lower on the CBO by deferring benefits to 2014, so that the cost over 10 years would come in under $1 Trillion. However, the bill is still projected to lower the deficit in the NEXT 10 years.

      1. Like you, I went 10 for 10. I am curious how the CBO estimate will change when they release their next update at the end of the month.

  3. Well, gee, Jon, I am a Republican who opposes Obamacare for economic, not social reasons, and I, too, scored 10 out of 10. Without being brainwashed by the liberal media or Fox News, I firmly believe that the cost of this program will far exceed CBO estimates. If the tax to opt out is only $95 to $350, versus around $3000 to $4000 for health insurance, why would any healthy young person choose to buy it?? With 49% of Americans not paying Federal Income taxes, do you think they will pay they “opt-out” tax? If states opt out of the increased medicaid program, what is the financial impact on the program? So many legitimate questions, so few realistic answers.

    1. Excellent questions George, but I hate to break it to you: you are no longer a typical “conservative.” While you correctly note that the mandate/penalty may not be strong enough to compel free riders to purchase insurance and leave the program underfunded, other people calling themselves “conservatives” are dressing in tri-corner hats and calling the personal responsibility mandate Kenyan Mooslim Atheistic Sociamalism Rabble Rabble.

      1. I would guess that I know a lot more “typical conservatives” than you do!! In spite of the liberal rhetoric attacking them, I find that most of “us” are intelligent, responsible, practical, and realistic. I know of only one friend that wears a tri-corner hat and I have blocked her Facebook posts because she is soooooo out there! By the way, you did not respond to any of my concerns.


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