Americans Like the Safeguards of the ACA's Pre-Existing Conditions, Poll Finds

Allison Inserro

The public, including most Republicans, wants protections for people with pre-existing conditions preserved, finds the latest Kaiser Family Foundation health tracking poll. The poll was released as a federal court case regarding the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) got underway in Texas and as Brett Kavanaugh began his second day of questioning from senators regarding his nomination to the Supreme Court.

In addition, the poll found that two-thirds of Americans are worried about surprise medical bills, with 38% either “very worried” or 29% “somewhat worried.”
Read more about health insurance and pre-existing conditions.
Three healthcare costs are included in the top 5 worries, with half of insured adults saying they worry about being able to afford their health insurance deductible, and more than 4 in 10 adults worrying about affording prescription drug costs.

Overall, the public said increasing health costs are a major problem: 6 in 10 (58%) said they are “very concerned.”

Ahead of the 2018 midterms, healthcare is top of mind for Democratic voters, with 34% citing it as their main issue, slightly ahead of corruption in Washington, DC, (32%) and the investigation into Russian meddling in the US election (29%).

Independent voters ranked corruption first at 33%, followed by healthcare at 26%. Republican voters did not list healthcare at all as one of their top 3 midterm concerns, choosing instead economy and jobs (31%), immigration (27%), and corruption (25%).

But when voters who do want to hear midterm candidates discuss healthcare, across the board, healthcare costs specifically are a top concern for Democrats (29%), Republicans (29%), and independents (29%).

There was also alignment on the issue of pre-existing conditions. Large majorities said it is “very important” to keep the ACA provisions that prevent insurance companies from denying coverage based on a person’s medical history (75%) and from charging sick people more (72%). This includes a majority of Democrats, Republicans, and independents, as well as majorities of those with and without people with pre-existing conditions in their households.

The ACA’s pre-existing condition protections are weighing heavily in some key Congressional races in part because of a pending legal challenge filed by 20 Republican state attorneys general. The Republicans say that when Congress eliminated the individual mandate for not having health insurance as part of last year’s tax bill, lawmakers rendered the entire health law unconstitutional.

The Trump administration opted not to defend the law’s pre-existing condition protections in the case, called Texas v Azar, and as a result, the landmark federal health law is being defended by attorneys general from Democratic states. A federal district court is scheduled to hear arguments on the challenge today.

Four in 10 Americans (41%) said they are “very worried” that they or a family member will lose coverage if the Supreme Court overturns the ACA’s pre-existing condition protections. In addition, half (52%) are “very worried” they or a family member will have to pay more for coverage.

The poll also asked about the effectiveness of the Trump administration’s plan to lower prescription drug prices. A majority (55%) said the president’s strategy of publicly calling on drug companies to lower their costs will not be too effective or at all effective. Fewer (42%) said it will be very or somewhat effective.

When asked about the reasons behind rising healthcare costs, an increasing share of the public blamed drug companies. Eight in 10 (78%) said drug companies making too much money is a “major reason,” up from 62% in 2014.

Other top causes in the public’s mind include fraud and waste in the healthcare system (71%), hospitals charging too much (71%), and insurance companies making too much money (70%). About 6 in 10 (62%) cite the expense of new drugs, treatments, and medical technologies for rising costs.

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