Support for Obamacare tempered by worry over job loss, out-of-pocket costs
Despite overall support for the Affordable Care Act, voters in California are concerned about how the legislation will affect the economy and their own health care access, according to the results of the latest USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences/Los Angeles Times Poll.
The largest statewide public opinion survey of registered voters, the USC Dornsife/LA Times Poll showed that 50 percent of California voters favor the Affordable Care Act, including 33 percent who strongly favor it. In addition, 48 percent of voters, surveyed from Oct. 30 to Nov. 5 just after the rollout of the Covered California health benefit exchange, said the state should continue its implementation of the law. Thirty-five percent of voters said they wanted implementation stopped and the law repealed.
But even those who support the new law had significant concerns, including lost wages and higher out-of-pocket costs. More than one in three voters said they had personally experienced losing health insurance coverage since the passage of the health care law, either directly or through a family member or close friend. More than half of voters — 57 percent — said insurance premiums had increased for themselves or someone they know. Another 24 percent said they or someone they know had experienced reduced wages due to the law.
In addition, 69 percent of voters said they believed workers will be laid off or forced to go part time so companies don’t have to pay for their health insurance, and 25 percent said it was unlikely.
Overall, 42 percent of Californians oppose the Affordable Care Act, including 30 percent who oppose it strongly for going too far and 6 percent who oppose it strongly for not going far enough.
“While there have been concerns about the cost of health care before Obamacare, Californians are generally satisfied with both the cost and quality of their health care,” said David Kanevsky, research director for Republican polling firm American Viewpoint, which conducted the poll with Democratic polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner on behalf of USC and the Los Angeles Times.
“The problem from a political perspective is this is called the Affordable Care Act, and voters say it’s not coming across as affordable. That creates a concern about its credibility,” he added. “If people think you broke the system, it’s very hard to make the electoral argument to let you fix the system they think you broke.”
The poll also found that Californians are already satisfied with their health care coverage: 90 percent of voters are satisfied with the quality and access of their personal health care, compared to 8 percent who are not satisfied. The majority of California voters had few complaints about their current medical costs, with 71 percent saying they were satisfied with how much they paid for health care, and 24 saying they were dissatisfied.
Voters expressed concern that people won’t be able to afford mandated health care, with 65 percent saying this was likely and 29 percent disagreeing with the statement. Another 63 percent agreed with the idea that the only affordable health insurance would be very basic coverage, and 26 percent disagreed.
“Even Californians who are very strongly supportive of health care reform are very measured in their expectations of what its impact is going to be,” said Dan Schnur, director of the poll and director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at USC. “If deep blue California is this lukewarm about the Affordable Care Act, that suggests very heavy sweater weather at the national level.”
About 28 percent of voters said they knew someone who had gotten health insurance since the passage of the Affordable Care Act, after being previously uninsured. Thirty percent of Latino voters said they knew someone who had been able to acquire health insurance, including 10 percent who said they were personally able to get health care coverage after being uninsured.
Californians were split on whether the new law would improve the nation’s health care system overall, with 43 percent saying the law would have a positive impact and 42 percent saying it would have a negative impact.
On whether the Affordable Care Act would help the economy, voters were more pessimistic. Thirty-four percent said the law would boost the economy, and 46 percent said it would hurt it. White voters were the most likely to think the health care law would hurt the economy, with 51 percent saying the law would be harmful and 28 percent saying it would help. Among Latino voters, 38 percent said the law would be harmful to the economy, and 41 percent said it would help.
By large margins, voters said they thought the Affordable Care Act would have a negative effect on small businesses. Fifty-four percent of white voters said the law would hurt small businesses, and 23 percent said it would help. Overall, 47 percent of voters said the effect of the law on small businesses would be negative, and 27 percent said it would be positive.
But voters also believed the law would make it likely that more people could be insured. Sixty-five percent of voters agreed that the law will lead to fewer uninsured people, and 29 percent disagreed. Voters were more split on whether the costs of caring for the uninsured would go down as a result of the Affordable Care Act: 45 percent said the costs would likely go down, including 53 percent of Latino voters, while 46 percent of voters said the law would not lower these costs. Fifty-seven percent of voters said they believe there will be cuts made to Medicare, and 29 percent disagreed.
“Politically the terms of the debate have become more complicated than whether health care reform is a good idea or a bad idea. The conversation has now shifted to whether we should implement and fix the law, or repeal and replace it, and the repeal and replace position is misaligned with most Californians,” said Drew Liebermann, vice president of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner. “There is a recognition that the overall system needs to be rectified, and voters still support Obamacare as a way to fix that.”
A plurality of voters said the health care law would have no effect on their personal health care situation: 37 percent of Californians said the Affordable Care Act would have no effect on their personal health care, 29 percent said it would have a positive effect and 24 percent said they believed the effect would be harmful.
Thirty-four percent of voters surveyed receive health insurance through their employer, 16 percent receive Medicare, 14 percent are insured through a family member, 10 percent bought their own policy and 10 percent are currently uninsured.