Partisan Divide Still Seen in What to Do About Healthcare, Poll Finds

In the years since the passage of the ACA, the partisan divide over "Obamacare" remains as sharp as ever. The Kaiser poll also found that reaction to universal health coverage shifts depending on what it is called.

What happens to healthcare after President Barack Obama leaves office depends on who shows up to vote in November, based on a new Kaiser Health Tracking Poll.

Opinion on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has been split by party lines from the start. More than 5 years in, that hasn’t changed, according to the survey.

Overall, results suggest that slowly, a growing share of Americans are inclined to work with the law that’s in place than start from scratch. The poll found that 36% of respondents wanted lawmakers to “build on the existing health care law to improve affordability and access,” with another 24% favoring universal coverage through a single payer plan.

Roughly a third of Americans want something different: 16% favored full repeal, and 13% favored repeal and replacement with a Republican-crafted alternative.

But as the Kaiser poll has shown from the start, Democrats, Republicans, independents have different views on how to proceed.

More than half of Democrats (54%) support building on the ACA as is, with 33% favoring universal coverage, 8% seeking a full repeal, and 1% seeking a GOP-sponsored replacement. Among Republicans, 34% want their party to replace the ACA, 26% want repeal with no replacement, while 21% want to build on the ACA. The poll found 9% of self-identified Republicans support universal healthcare.

Independents closely mirrored the overall findings: 36% favored building on the ACA, 26% want universal health coverage, 12% want full repeal, and 13% want a GOP-crafted plan.

The poll’s most important finding about healthcare, however, is that it no longer comes close to being the top issue driving voter interest. Republicans, Democrats and independents are united in wanting to hear what candidates have to say about jobs and the economy, by shares of 28%, 31%, and 25%, respectively.

Healthcare ranks 4th as an issue of interest for Democrats and independents, behind who the candidate is and foreign policy. For Republicans, it ranked 5th, behind foreign policy, who the candidate is, and immigration.

Donald Trump, the current frontrunner for the GOP presidential nomination, has called the ACA a “disaster” that he has vowed to repeal. He told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, “Obamacare is falling out under its own weight. It’s going to be dead by 2017.”

When pressed for specifics, Trump has discussed use of health savings accounts, and allowing employers to access coverage “across state lines,” which appears to be a reference to allowing companies to seek an optional federal charter, a change insurers have discussed on and off for around 20 years.

On the Democratic side, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has supported building on the ACA in its current form, while Vermont US Senator Bernie Sanders is an advocate of “Medicare for all.”

Sanders’ decision to use the term “Medicare for all” is probably not an accident, based on what the Kaiser poll found. Results showed that Americans had different reactions to the concept of universal coverage depending on what it was called:

· 63% had a “very positive” or “positive” reaction to the term “Medicare for all.”

· 57% had a “very positive” or “positive” reaction to the term “guaranteed universal health coverage.”

· 44% had a “very positive” or “positive” reaction to the term “single payer health insurance system.

· 38% had a “very positive” or “positive” reaction to the term “socialized medicine”

Meanwhile, a different poll released yesterday from Associated Press Gfk found that 39% of Americans support replacing private health insurance with a “single payer, Medicare-like plan.”