The shift is almost entirely due to a boost of support from independents. Respondents also overwhelmingly support keeping funds for Medicaid expansion.
President Donald J. Trump and Republicans in Congress may think the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is a failure, but a new poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation finds public support for “Obamacare” is at an all-time high.
The latest Kaiser Health Tracking Poll, released today, finds that 48% view the law favorably compared with 42% who view the law unfavorably. Kaiser reported, “This is the highest level of favorability measured in more than 60 Kaiser Health Tracking Polls conducted since 2010.”
The lowest favorability level of 33% was reported in October 2013, when the massive technical failures of the HealthCare.gov site were at their height.
Huge majorities say Congress could keep Medicaid expansion funding—and respondents in states with Republican governors (87%) slightly outpaced those with Democratic governors (85%). In states without Medicaid expansion, 80% support retaining funds for this part of the ACA, which a House Republican plan seeks to roll back. Besides halting expansion funds, the Republicans want to convert Medicaid to a block grant or per-capita grant program.
About 13.5 million people have been added to the Medicaid rolls since 2013, including some who had always been eligible but had not enrolled for a variety of reasons. Two-thirds of respondents say Medicaid should continue to be funded as it is today.
Some 21 million people have gained coverage under the ACA, and contentious town hall meetings and marches are revealing what Republicans always feared: once people have a benefit, it is very difficult to take it away. Even former House Speaker John Boehner said Thursday that Congress is more likely to tinker with the healthcare law than get rid of it.
While other polling groups report on how Americans view the ACA, the Kaiser poll is the most closely watched because it reports the results regularly, typically every month to 6 weeks. The most recent Kaiser poll before this was conducted in December 2016 and published January 6, 2017.
Support for the ACA has ebbed and flowed since polling began, with sharp splits between how Republicans and Democrats view former President Barack Obama’s signature law. In this latest poll, Democrats overwhelmingly support the law (73%), while Republicans oppose it (74%).
The 5-point increase in support since December is almost entirely due to increased support from independents. Approval among this group has reached 50%, compared with 39% unfavorable.
A full 48% of all respondents say that the president and Congress should not repeal the ACA, while 28% say Congress should not vote until details of the replacement are known. Respondents were asked their mood about the possibility of a repeal, and more said “worried,” (56%) and “hopeful,” (53%); with 45% saying “confused,” 38% saying “angry,” and 33% saying “enthusiastic.” The poll interviewed 1160 adults from February 13-19, 2017.
Over nearly 7 years of polling, the Kaiser results have typically shown Americans evenly divided about the ACA, with a small share consistently saying they don’t know or refusing to answer. However, there was always another consistent result: respondents strongly support many components of the healthcare law even if they said they did not like “Obamacare.” Especially popular are the ban on denying coverage based on a pre-existing condition and keeping adult children on plans to age 26, which were the first 2 elements that President Trump said he would retain.
The chief exception has been the individual mandate; however, no one has been able to figure out how to end this requirement without making coverage unaffordable for those who have complex health conditions.