Myth Busters: Clearing Up Misconceptions About Health Care Reform

Panels of bureaucrats who will ration expensive end-of-life care for senior citizens. Free health care for those living in the U.S. without legal permission. The ability for young adults to remain on their parents’ insurance plan until age 26. Only one of these three items is an actual provision of the new health care law – do YOU know which one is fact and which two are fiction?

Recent research from the Kaiser Family Foundation revealed that the American public has a poor understanding of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), sometimes colloquially referred to as “Obamacare.” A shocking 42 percent of those polled were unaware that the ACA is actually the law of the land – and that includes 12 percent who erroneously believed that Congress repealed the law, as well as 7 percent who mistakenly thought the Supreme Court had overturned it. (The fact is, the ACA is official, has survived numerous challenges, and is not going away.)

Other sources confirm that confusion reigns. A report published by Stanford University cited a poll that found only 17 percent of those surveyed could say with certainty that the law did not create “death panels” to ration elder care – and only 10 percent were certain that the law did not provide for free care to people living in the U.S. illegally. This tells us that the majority of Americans are either unsure of what the ACA covers or completely misinformed about it. (Both the existence of death panels and the provision of free care for those living in the United States illegally are fallacies.)

How does this affect you, as a nurse? First of all, the ACA has an impact on you personally as a consumer of health care – perhaps you are also confused about everything contained in this complex, 975-page law and concerned as to how it will affect your own family’s health. It also has an impact on you professionally. For example, there are concerns that expanded access to care may temporarily overload the system, as newly insured patients take advantage of the new emphasis on preventive services.

There are many reasons why it’s important for you, as a nurse, to be well-informed about the Affordable Care Act. First and foremost is patient advocacy – your patients may turn to you for information about the law and how it can work for them. For example, if you can explain that certain preventive procedures are now covered in full with no deductible or copayment, you may be able to make a positive impact on a patient’s state of wellness.

Perhaps the best resource for anyone hoping to learn the basics of the ACA is the website You’ll have to click around a bit, and it’s written with the health care consumer in mind, but it does a good job of explaining the provisions of the law in plain language. There are other resources to check out as well:

  • This page on Medscape discusses the ways in which the ACA may create new professional opportunities for nurses.
  • The American Nurses Association also offers up a list of resources, mostly related to nursing.
  • A PDF document offered by the Kaiser Family Foundation summarizes, in two brief pages, the key provisions of the ACA – including the new limitations on insurers, who will no longer be able to deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions, charge higher premiums to women, or impose lifetime limits on coverage.

The ACA is likely to open up a range of job opportunities for nurses, as well as the chance for them to learn an in-demand specialty. American Sentinel University is an innovative, accredited provider of online nursing degrees, including programs that prepare nurses for a specialty in case management, infection control, and executive leadership.