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August 29, 2013 11:01 AM Are Doctors the Source of Obamacare Misinformation?

By Jonathan Bernstein

I never know how to take self-reports about information sources…it’s probably not a very good idea to take them at face value.

But for whatever it’s worth, I’m a bit intrigued at one bit from today’s new Kaiser poll. It turns out that of the various sources of information about the Affordable Care Act, people say they trust “your doctor or nurse” the most (quite sensibly, people claim to trust “social networking sites” the least, although that they say that doesn’t, again, mean it’s actually true). It’s not anywhere close to the most used source; only 22 percent say they’ve recently heard something about ACA from “Your doctor or another health care professional.” But what they hear, they say they trust.

What all this makes me wonder about is whether doctors are in fact a significant source of misinformation about Obamacare.

It’s pretty unlikely, in my view, that doctors are particularly well-informed about the ACA — at least, about the kinds of questions that consumers would have. Why should they be? I suppose some they would know about some of the cost-control reforms, at least to the extent that it directly affects them. But the whole exchanges/subsidies/mandate portion of it doesn’t really have much to do with doctors, at all. At least not directly.

Meanwhile, doctors strongly tend to be Republicans, and I’d guess that doctors probably fit comfortably into the Rush Limbaugh listening demographic. The odds that doctors have heard, and would believe, various Obamacare myths strikes as very high. Are they then passing those myths along to patients (and others they meet)? And are people who might dismiss something if it was email forwarded from Uncle Larry assuming that if a doctor said it, it must be true? If so: how much of the misinformation out there does it account for?

Obviously, this is totally speculative. Any step in the logic I’m setting out here could be dead wrong, including the assumption that doctors are relatively uninformed about health insurance reform. I’d sure love to see a study about it, though.

[Cross-posted at A plain blog about politics]

Jonathan Bernstein is a political scientist who writes about American politics, especially the presidency, Congress, parties, and elections.

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