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Second Opinion: What We Learned About Health Care — And Our Readers — in 2013

Above: 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.

Map

Participant Locations


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.

Comments

Avatar for user 'CaliforniaDefender'

CaliforniaDefender | January 2, 2014 at 10:10 a.m. ― 9 months ago

"For six months, I left my comfort zone covering people (specifically, those in City Heights)..." - Megan Burks

===

I'm sorry the rest of us make you uncomfortable.

I'm also sorry you think 24 respondents is statistically significant.

Perhaps in the future you should not require people to respond on camera as that doesn't add any value to a survey.

National polls show the vast majority of Americans are opposed to Obamacare:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-politics/wp/2013/12/23/poll-support-for-obamacare-hits-new-low

http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/193853-obamacare-approval-drops-to-record-low-in-cnn-poll

I suspect a significant sampling of San Diegans would be the just same, if not more opposed than the national average.

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Avatar for user 'Alex_Grebenshchikov'

Alex_Grebenshchikov | January 2, 2014 at 12:42 p.m. ― 9 months ago

CaliforniaDefender, you are right on here.

"I'm also sorry you think 24 respondents is statistically significant."

Ha ha, I thought the same thing! 24? Come on, that is worthless, no point in reading any further.

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | January 2, 2014 at 1:09 p.m. ― 9 months ago

CADefender, you are cherry-picking polls.

It's been widely proven that how you word the poll questions impacts how people respond to polls.

If you ask people if the are in favor of "Obamacare", you get a lot of people who will say no because of all the negative press opponents have leveled in the media.

If you break it down and present the things the ACA actually does, then the vast majority of people support it.

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Avatar for user 'CaliforniaDefender'

CaliforniaDefender | January 2, 2014 at 1:39 p.m. ― 9 months ago

Duck,

Can you point to a recent poll showing that?

Also, there is an enormous distinction between "actually does" and "theoretically does". On paper the ACA looks much better than in practice.

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | January 2, 2014 at 3:31 p.m. ― 9 months ago

CADfender, I'm not arguing with you that the most recent polls are low, of course they are with the disastrous technical issues that have occurred.

But one problem with the type of polls you cite is that they don't distinguish between those who respond negatively because they actually think the ACA doesn't go far enough.

Many people who want a single-payer system will answer in the negative.

When you extract various provisions such as no discriminating based on pre-existing conditions or keeping children on a policy to 26, they poll favorably.

The law is so complex and has so many components, of course there will be things that work and things that don't as we move forward.

Why can't Republicans and Democrats both accept this is now the law of the land and work together to make the changes needed as we encounter them instead of this un-achievable campaign to nix the entire thing ??

You say it looks better on paper than in practice, but it just went into practice this week. Can't we give it some time and see what actually happens ?

Maybe it will increase productivity amongst the working poor. Maybe it will help us return our emergency rooms to being used as they were intended, for actual emergencies, instead of as de facto primary care clinics. Maybe we will see a dramatic decline in our epidemic of bankruptcies brought as a result of unpaid medical bills. Maybe it will save lives now that more people won't be afraid to go to the doctor when they have symptoms of an illness because they can't afford to go.

Yes, it's not perfect and things will need to be tweaked along the way, but there is a lot of good it will do.

Please give it a chance.

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Avatar for user 'CaliforniaDefender'

CaliforniaDefender | January 2, 2014 at 4:40 p.m. ― 9 months ago

Duck,

Sure we can give it a chance. Why not? With the US debt at $17 trillion, who cares if we splash a little as we go down the drain.

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Avatar for user 'benz72'

benz72 | January 3, 2014 at 8:09 a.m. ― 9 months ago

PDSD "Why can't Republicans and Democrats both accept this is now the law of the land and work together to make the changes needed as we encounter them instead of this un-achievable campaign to nix the entire thing ??"

Many are working to make the needed changes; it's just that some don't yet see that cancellation is needed.

PDSD "Maybe it will help us return our emergency rooms to being used as they were intended, for actual emergencies, instead of as de facto primary care clinics."

Please review recent report regarding Medicaid expansion increasing ER visits ~40%.

PDSD "Yes, it's not perfect and things will need to be tweaked along the way, but there is a lot of good it will do."

For some, in the short term that is true; but in the long term having a larger population of persons increasingly dependent on government charity does not serve anyone well. Try viewing this from the perspective of a few generations from now and see if you reach the same conclusions.

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Avatar for user 'RegularChristian'

RegularChristian | January 3, 2014 at 8:18 a.m. ― 9 months ago

Wow! I didn't know so many people were in the individual insurance market, like me. I've had premium increases of over 30% for five years in a row so I am glad something was finally done to stop the insanity.

I noticed in 2013 how vehemently opposed some people are to this well intentioned and much needed reform.

As for 2014, any shortcomings in the ACA can be easily fixed with more regulation of the insurance industry. Or the opposite tack: medicare for all.

So many other countries do such a better job at providing efficient and affordable health insurance and health care that I'm sure we can match their successes.

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Avatar for user 'Megan Burks'

Megan Burks, KPBS Staff | January 3, 2014 at 11:25 a.m. ― 9 months ago

Nowhere in this story do I say 24 respondents is statistically significant and representative of San Diego as a whole. This post is an exercise in transparency about who voluntarily participated and helped shape the series.

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Avatar for user 'Megan Burks'

Megan Burks, KPBS Staff | January 3, 2014 at 11:28 a.m. ― 9 months ago

I also want to add a huge THANK YOU to those of you who participated in the series. It was a pleasure meeting all of you.

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Avatar for user 'RegularChristian'

RegularChristian | January 6, 2014 at 6:46 a.m. ― 8 months, 4 weeks ago

MEGAN: Rest assured most of us realize KPBS gives us the most objective journalism in San Diego. Every person and every institution has a bias, but objective journalists put those biases aside to be objective. Your organization is the bastion of objective news, plain and simple.

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