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The Affordable Care Act: Know the facts and make up your own mind

The Supreme Court next week hears arguments for and against the Affordable Care Act. Did you know that the act would ban “gender rating” by insurers? Know the facts, then make up your own mind.

Associated Press

The Supreme Court next week hears arguments for and against the Affordable Care Act. Did you know that the act would ban “gender rating” by insurers? Know the facts, then make up your own mind.

It's an election year, so people who like polls, statistics and fun facts are in our glory.

Lovers of clarity, however, may not be having such a good time.

Consider a new Harris Poll that tried to find out how Americans feel about various laws and policies that are supposed to protect us. Here are some highlights:

• 91 percent support a ban on texting while driving.

• 78 percent support requiring restaurants to post nutrition information on menus.

• 86 percent support requiring the regular round of childhood vaccinations.

• 80 percent support banning smoking in public places.

• 76 percent oppose employers citing obesity as a reason not to hire.

• 62 percent oppose taxing sugar-sweetened soft drinks.

Here's the kicker: More than three-quarters agree that such public health initiatives work. Yet 61 percent fear they may impede individual freedoms.

"The public is somewhat schizophrenic about laws and policies that are intended to improve health and safety and reduce injuries and accidents," said Humphrey Taylor, chairman of the Harris Poll.

Schizophrenic? No, I don't think it's crazy to resist help, even when you know you need it. Any kid whose mom makes him come home when it's getting dark out knows this. Sure, he'll whine, but he'd really be unhappy if mom left him outside all night.

These feelings aren't crazy, but they are complicated.

Balancing safety and freedom is no easy thing. We'll be hearing plenty about this next week as the U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments for and against the Affordable Care Act.

Florida is leading the 26 states opposing the law, mostly over the requirement that everyone have insurance, and I'm sure that plenty of citizens are glad about this.

But it's also worth considering that freedom to buy your own insurance might be more meaningful with more official help in the form of tougher rules.

Did you know that women who buy individual insurance are charged far more than men? Now, this might seem logical because women do spend more on health care than men do. Most of the difference is because women: a) bear children; and b) live longer. So it's not because we're wimpy.

But most individual policies do not cover childbirth. And when we're old, we're on Medicare, so these policies don't care for us in our dotage. Yet a new report by the National Women's Law Center found that this "gender rating'' costs women about $1 billion a year.

Am I the only one who thinks this makes about as much sense as . . . texting while driving?

There are some states that forbid so-called gender-rating by insurers, but Florida is not among them. There are states that require maternity coverage in the individual market, but Florida is not among them.

The Affordable Care Act would ban gender rating by 2014, just one of many ways the law seeks to expand access to medical care. And it aims to spread the costs around by requiring everyone, even those who are healthy now, to have insurance.

Follow the news, read the law, make up your own mind. But don't let anyone call you schizophrenic if you don't come down squarely on one side or the other.

I suspect most of us are muddling around in the middle, seeking a compromise that respects freedom while helping those who need medical care. And that, eventually, is just about everyone.

Crazy? Not at all. Complicated? Definitely.

The Affordable Care Act: Know the facts and make up your own mind 03/23/12 [Last modified: Friday, March 23, 2012 11:34am]
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