Poll on Health Care Law Shows Increased Support
WASHINGTON — The gap between Americans who view the Affordable Care Act favorably and those who do not is smaller now than at any time since the fall of 2012, a year before the law’s disastrous rollout, according to a monthly poll that has tracked attitudes about the polarizing law since President Obama signed it five years ago.
The latest Kaiser Health Tracking Poll, conducted in early March by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health policy research group, found that 43 percent of respondents had an unfavorable opinion of the law, while 41 percent viewed it favorably. Though more Americans continue to reject the law than embrace it, the margin has narrowed considerably even since last July, when 53 percent viewed it unfavorably in the Kaiser poll and 37 percent viewed it favorably.
Drew Altman, the foundation’s president, noted that the near closing of the gap had happened after a three-month open enrollment period that involved few technological problems, and at a time when the law is not being as bitterly debated in Washington and in the states as it has been in the past.
“It reflects the fact that the last several months have not been a time when, compared to the past, the Affordable Care Act has been under sharp political attack,” Mr. Altman said.
Forty percent of respondents said they would like to see Congress repeal or scale back the law, while 46 percent said they would prefer that Congress move forward with carrying out the law or expand what it does. Still, Mr. Altman noted, most Republicans continue to oppose the law, and most Democrats continue to favor it. “Opinion on the A.C.A. is still stuck in an intractable partisan divide,” he said.
The poll also found that a majority of respondents were worried about the potential impact of a case before the Supreme Court that could limit health insurance subsidies available under the law to people in states that run their own online marketplaces. Sixty-two percent said such a ruling would have a negative impact on the country, while 23 percent said the impact would be positive.
Nearly 80 percent said they were not confident that Republicans in Congress and Mr. Obama could work together to resolve the issues created by a ruling against the subsidies, which would block them for people in more than 30 states. Regardless, 81 percent of Democrats and 67 percent of independents said that in the event of such a ruling, Congress should pass a law allowing people in those states to continue receiving subsidies. Most Republicans, 56 percent, said Congress should take no action.
But in the potentially affected states, even Republicans said those states should create their own marketplaces so that their residents could keep receiving subsidies. About 60 percent of Republicans, 70 percent of independents and 80 percent of Democrats in states that could be affected by the ruling said they favored state action if the Supreme Court sided with the plaintiffs in the case, King v. Burwell.
The poll also found that public awareness of the case remains dim, with more than half of respondents saying they had heard nothing about it and another 25 percent saying they had heard only a little.
Still, Mr. Altman said, “when we explain the issue to them, I think it’s just a matter of common sense or fairness: They don’t get why people in some states should get financial help from the government but people in other states would not get it.”
The nationwide tracking poll of 1,503 adults was conducted March 6 to 12 using cellphones and landlines. Interviews were in English and Spanish. The margin of sampling error was plus or minus three percentage points for the full sample.
-New York Times by Abby Goodnough