A new Kaiser Family Foundation health tracking poll surveying adults for their views on the Affordable Care Act reveals that a slight majority of the public favors health care reform today. Forty-three percent support the law and 43 percent oppose it, with 14 percent having no view.
Views about the law diverge tremendously based on political party affiliation, gender, race and insurance status. Seventy percent of Democrats, 42 percent of Independents and only 16 percent of Republicans favor the law. By gender, a much larger percentage of women support the law, 47 percent, than men, 40 percent. And by race, White Americans favor the law far less, 36 percent, than African Americans, 64 percent, and Hispanics, 53 percent. Curiously, people with insurance are far more likely to favor the law, 47 percent, than people without insurance, 34 percent.
In sharp contrast, by income levels, support for the law is fairly constant. Forty-five percent of people earning less than $40,000 support the law, 44 percent of people earning more than $90,000 support the law and 40 percent of people earning between $40,000 and $90,000 support the law.
The Affordable Care Act has its benefits and weaknesses. Its success at ensuring 16.4 million more Americans have insurance is far and away its biggest benefit. But, people often don’t see that value until they need costly health care or they lose their employer coverage and find that they can’t find an insurer to cover them or that the coverage is unaffordable. And, the overwhelming majority of the population under 65 needs relatively little health care. The Affordable Care Act subsidizes the premium on a sliding scale for people with incomes up to four times the federal poverty level.
The weakness of the Affordable Care Act is its exclusive reliance on private insurers to provide coverage that people need. The private insurers have never been able to rein in costs. What’s worse, the insurers make it stressful and draining to get care even when you have coverage because of all their rules and restrictions. And, with insurance, out-of-pocket costs can be thousands of dollars, and you may struggle to get care from the doctors and hospitals you trust. A public health insurance option, like traditional Medicare, would have driven competition in the health insurance marketplace, provided greater choice at lower cost and pressured the insurers to deliver better coverage at a more affordable price.