Second Opinion: What We Learned About Health Care — and Our Readers

Second Opinion: What We Learned About Health Care — and Our Readers

Photos by John Rosman, Brian Myers and Megan Burks

Oscar Ramos, Shelley, Jean Scally, Becki Mendia, Conrad Harris, Sylvia Hampton, Rich Martindell, Sandra D'Alonzo and Jeff Schoellerman.

For six months, I left my comfort zone covering people (specifically, those in City Heights) to sift through insurance jargon, decipher tax laws and get a hold of the people whom you couldn’t reach on the phone.

Second Opinion answered questions about the Affordable Care Act from 24 San Diegans. The requirements to participate were simple: You had to have a question about Obamacare and you had to be willing to ask it on camera (the answers appeared on the web and on KPBS radio and television).

That last requirement significantly whittled down our pool of questions. It turns out, a lot of people aren’t into sharing the details of their finances and health with millions of people.

Below is a look at the whole lot of San Diegans who submitted questions.

We asked all of our respondents whether they support the Affordable Care Act. The majority, 79 percent, said they do. Some of those who said they do not agree with the law said they support universal health care and consider the ACA a misstep.

The majority of respondents, 43 percent, had insurance through their employer, but many were asking questions about their spouses, significant others and older children whom their employers don’t cover. Thirty percent of those who submitted questions bought insurance on the individual market – many worked freelance or owned small businesses – and 19 percent were uninsured.

It’s no surprise the majority of people with questions, 76 percent, were newly eligible for Medi-Cal or within the income range for new federal insurance subsidies. A quarter made too much to qualify for financial help under Obamacare.

Medicare eligibility is unaffected by the Affordable Care Act, so the majority of respondents, 85 percent, were younger than 65. Most were on the cusp of change, however. They were retiring but not yet Medicare-eligible, they were about to graduate from college and lose their school’s insurance, their current health plan was canceled or they were about to get health insurance for the first time because income or immigration status prevented them in the past.


View Second Opinion Participants, By ZIP Code in a larger map

Questions came from all over the county (and some from outside of the county, which aren’t represented here). Many of those who were able to participate (i.e., could schedule time with me and a videographer) worked from home in North County.

See all of my Second Opinions here.

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Megan Burks

Megan Burks

Megan Burks is a reporter for Speak City Heights, a media project of Voice of San Diego, KPBS, Media Arts Center and The AjA Project. You can contact her directly at meburks@kpbs.org or 619.550.5665.

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3 comments
Mark Giffin
Mark Giffin subscribermember

Whether one is for or against ACA it should concern everyone what a poor Job the Obama administration has done with it so far.
He is really a poor manager and his Administration has not helped those backers that supported it.
The success of this experiment is far from guaranteed nor are the repercussions (both good and Bad) really known at this time.
ACA remains a cause of uncertainty at this time.

uaplumber
uaplumber

There are many serious reasons the the ACA is good for all of America but I will address the most important ones. First of all, if the Republicans actually were the party of "family values" they too would be in the forefront of the push for universal healthcare for all citizens. Then the fact that pre-existing conditions was used to discriminate against all who actually needed coverage but were denied is just plain wrong. Then there is the ascending curve of rising prices for those not in a "group"plan that kept so many off the books and left only the ER as the option available fort those catastrophic calamities from serious illness to broken bones as the place to seek help. I think the single payer option was the best solution to this problem of choosing to eat, pay the rent, or have health care but that wouldn't fly with then Republicans that are in office now. If we can squander billions in Afghanistan and elsewhere in the name of protecting our national interests then it only seems natural that we should, at the very least, supply quality health care for everybody as a priority in this country. All our troops and their families get it for free, all government employees of every kind get it for free, all people over 65 get it free with medicare, all disabled veterans and workers get it for free as a part of their benefits and this onlt leaves a small minority that need coverage but don't want to pay for it. At least now everybody is on the same (sort of) level and having minimum affordable coverage is not having it is not an option. With the exception of the stupid religious exemptions, the law is a good start and with refining over the years, just like social security, it will benefit all Americans in them long run. I am thankful that Obama had the guts to take on this issue and move us forward.

Bill Bradshaw
Bill Bradshaw subscribermember

I think it’s a bit early to be crediting the President for anything but bulling through, without a single vote from the opposing party, a measure that amounts to a radical takeover of about a sixth of the economy. What you commend as “guts”, I would prefer to call supreme arrogance. The outcome is very much in doubt, and I think the worst aspects of the law are as yet unknown, but several things are apparent:

1. The most obvious fact about health care in the U.S, is that routine procedures, like tonsillectomies and normal childbirth, cost substantially more here than anywhere else, as do prescription drugs. This, not “corporate greed” or an uncaring population is the fundamental cause of all the millions of “uninsured” that was the emotional basis for the Affordable Care Act, despite the fact that many uninsured are there by choice, not poverty. There was nothing in the 2000 plus page bill that dealt with this problem, so the claim of savings for most people is nonsense. There will be big winners and losers, not the “everyone will save” fantasy the President claimed.

2. The quality of care is likely to decline substantially, as this law is going to encourage many physicians to leave the profession and many med school candidates to make other career choices at the exact moment when we are giving free health insurance to tens of millions of new patients. Add to this the very restricted health packages the insurance industry is offering, with far fewer physicians to choose from, e.g., in many areas and you have a dismal picture for future quality.

3. The costs to the average person, and to the national treasury will inevitably skyrocket because of the substitution of plans with numerous provisions useless to people who now have allegedly “substandard” plans based on the political decisions of the “experts” as to what must be covered to meet minimum plan requirements.

I think it’s fair to predict the President, who is already demonizing Republicans for not helping him implement the plan, will next turn to the insurance industry, then doctors and drug companies as scapegoats to explain mounting problems. Someone should send the guy a mirror, perhaps engraved around the frame with "If you like your.....", well, you know the rest.