Split Views On Health Overhaul In Ohio : Shots - Health News A poll by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health finds that people in the politically important state of Ohio are divided over Obamacare.
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Split Views On Health Overhaul In Ohio

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Split Views On Health Overhaul In Ohio

Split Views On Health Overhaul In Ohio

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Polls are about numbers. Behind those numbers, voices. And let's hear some from Ohio. The polling from NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found deep disagreement over Obamacare. Sarah Jane Tribble from member station WCPN reports.

SARAH JANE TRIBBLE, BYLINE: Lilo Whittaker lives on a wooded, one-acre lot in rural Ohio. The setting is idyllic on a cold winter morning. Chickadees chirp outside, and hot pot of coffee brews in the kitchen. But at nearly 60 years old, Whittaker says the picture isn't perfect. She was one of the people who responded to the poll. When Whittaker first heard of federal health reform several years ago, she thought it would help.

LILO WHITTAKER: I thought, this is great. You know, people will be able to afford their health insurance and get decent coverage and be able to take care of their medical issues.

TRIBBLE: But in the past two years, Whittaker says, her husband's Parkinson's medications went from just over $150 a month to more than $400. And the couple's health insurance coverage has become less affordable.

WHITTAKER: A lot of people like me will forgo going to a doctor even if they have a problem because you can't even afford, you know, your deductible or your co-pay. And I don't think the health insurance issues here are addressed properly.

TRIBBLE: Whittaker is one of the 27 percent in Ohio who say Obamacare has directly hurt them. On the other hand, 21 percent of Ohioans say it has directly helped them.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: That's it. Have a seat wherever you're comfortable. They're going to call you from over this door.

TRIBBLE: The Free Medical Clinic of Greater Cleveland has a steady stream of patients on a recent weekday afternoon. Over the past two years, the clinic has seen a shift in who it cares for. More people have coverage, like 29-year-old Whitnie Momah. She smiles when asked about her health care insurance.

WHITNIE MOMAH: I hear a lot of people say that for them it's gotten worse, but for me, it's gotten better. Before, I made too much money to qualify for, like, any type of government assistance but not enough money to where I could afford my health insurance.

TRIBBLE: Momah is a nursing student, and she says she would be uninsured if she hadn't called healthcare.gov. They walked her through the site, and she's now enrolled in a low-cost health insurance plan called Buckeye.

MOMAH: It really helped me out, yeah. It was a huge blessing for me.

TRIBBLE: Momah's experience, as well as Whittaker's, are two different but very real pictures of Ohio, says Robert Blendon, a professor at the Harvard Chan School.

ROBERT BLENDON: In Ohio, there are a share people who really feel that they've been helped by the law and changes in recent years. There are a share of people who actually don't feel that they've been helped and actually hurt. And it's not a unified view of what is going on in Ohio as a result of this. The divisions are really quite large.

TRIBBLE: Nearly 900,000 people have gained health care coverage in the past two years in Ohio - about 240,000 with federal marketplace plans and another 650,000 through Ohio's expansion of Medicaid - something Republican Governor John Kasich did despite his party's opposition. At the same time, people enrolled in employer-sponsored health insurance have seen a steady climb in the amount they pay out-of-pocket. One analysis shows that by 2014, Ohio was third in the nation for the most people enrolled in high-deductible health plans. Reem Aly is with the nonpartisan Health Policy Institute of Ohio. She says people tend to blame the Affordable Care Act for the high-deductible health plan trend.

REEM ALY: So it can be a very polarizing issue. Every person has different circumstances, and health care can be a very personal issue.

TRIBBLE: For Lilo Whittaker, the ACA is still a promise left unfulfilled. She questions why some benefit so much and others, like herself, do not. It's not fair, she says.

WHITTAKER: We just go without. We don't do anything. I mean, Christmas was kind of depressing for the grandkids because I told them I couldn't afford to do what I used to be able to do.

TRIBBLE: Whittaker says she has never not paid her bills, but now to afford her husband's medication, she just doesn't pay them as well as she used to. For NPR News, I'm Sarah Jane Tribble.

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