A recent poll found that one-third of individuals in the U.S. did not know that the Affordable Care Act and Obamacare were the same thing. Such disconnects between policy and popular culture indicate the real potential for future misunderstanding of any other health care related laws and policies that are enacted.

To get the most from whatever care is available, we must pay closer attention to how our governments shape, fund, provide and manage health care. Trying to understand these concepts and issues is not always easy for each of us to do alone and talking with each other can help us to clarify the murkiness that policy seems to create.

With that in mind, several community groups in Galveston have spent time over the past two years learning about various health related issues, policies and practices. Under the aegis of the Sealy Center on Aging at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, the Community Bioethics Dialogues have been held with four Galveston-area community groups since 2015: St. Vincent’s House; a combination of the Galveston Alliance of Island Neighborhoods and the Galveston Citizen’s Police Academy Alumni Association; the Galveston Island Community Research Advisory Committee; and the local League of United Latin American Citizens.

The dialogues are dynamic two-hour discussions that take place over the course of six weeks in which community members review theme related materials and then gather to discuss them, enabled by a moderator of their choosing. The first round of dialogues in 2015 asked participants to consider how patients want to be treated and what they expect from their caregivers.

The second round of dialogues in 2016 considered a theme the groups chose themselves: Mental Health and Seniors. The topic was honed to specific concepts and “experts” were recruited to present current thinking on each topic. These were followed by fruitful discussions in which community members became empowered to teach others in their families and neighborhoods about mental health issues.

At the end of each dialogue period participants wrote a report outlining their core values concerning various elements of health care.

The dialogues demonstrated the level of impact discussions can have when neighbors get together to consider critical issues that affect communities and families. Two participants took the information gleaned from the sessions to their church and families by creating a pamphlet identifying the issues they felt their children and friends needed to know as they age. Another participant held a session for the residents at a senior apartment complex on the mainland to teach them about the importance of advance care planning.

We are excited to announce that future opportunities will be available for other community groups to participate in similar bioethics dialogues in and around Galveston County. The topic of “Health Care, Aging, and End of Life” will be held as part of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute fall 2017 course offering. If your church or community group is interested in sponsoring a community bioethics dialogue on health care issues, contact Dr. Jerome Crowder, jecrowde@utmb.edu or Dr. Peggy Determeyer, pdeter meyer@hopeandhealingcen ter.org.

Jerome W. Crowder

is an assistant professor in the Institute of Medical Humanities at UTMB; and

Peggy L. Determeyer

is a McGee Fellow in Bioethics and Aging at the Hope and Healing Center and Institute in Houston.

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(4) comments

Carlos Ponce

Why do people not know Obamacare and the ACA are the same? Packaging. Put the word "Affordable" on the cover and it sounds great. Prices will go down, doctors will be plentiful, hospital visits won't cost be astronomical but "affordable". With Obamacare people see prices going UP. Obamacare is anything but "Affordable" for millions who need it. If it worked for you, consider yourself lucky. But for the majority of Americans it does not work.
ACA has the word affordable in it so it must be "affordable".
The perception of Obamacare is that it drove prices up; premiums, co-pays, deductibles, etc. That's reality.
That's why many don't equate the two.

Raymond Lewis

Within the past few months I have been in a conversation in which a person lamented that they were worried their new health insurance through the "affordable care" would be replaced by "Obama Care". Many people do not understand because what the ACA does (and does not do) has been purposely misrepresented by some, for what ever their reasoning may be. Often times, some of those presenting information as fact are simply repeating erroneous information themselves...for what ever their reasoning may be.

Doyle Beard

Th eObamacare and the affordable care act should be named unaffordable. Its down right scary 1/3 of the people are so misinformed.

Randy Chapman

It does not surprise me in the least that so many don't know the programs are one and the same. Sadly, far too many of those that don't know this are eligible to vote. A government test should be mandatory before the "privilege" of voting is bestowed upon an individual.

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