Despite Deceptive Headlines, Obamacare Remains as Unpopular as Ever
By Elizabeth Fender, Market Research Associate at The Heritage Foundation
The Kaiser Family Foundation runs a monthly tracking poll on health care topics, including Obamacare, that provides those involved in the raging U.S. health care debate some helpful regular check-ins with public sentiment.
The April edition has gotten some increased attention in light of the recent repeal attempts in the U.S. House of Representatives.
CNBC recently published an assessment of some of the findings titled “Big Majority of Americans, Among Them Trump Supporters, Want the President to Try to Make Obamacare Work.”
This headline gives a false impression of reality. Reasonable readers would be led to believe that Americans, even Trump supporters, want President Donald Trump to focus on repairing and improving Obamacare rather than repealing it.
That’s not at all what the poll findings say.
The question only gave respondents two narrow options—a false choice that no one on Capitol Hill is facing. The two options were (1) for Congress to help make Obamacare work, or (2) “do what they can to make the law fail so they can replace it later.”
This is a false and unrealistic choice. The real choice is between fulfilling campaign promises to repeal and replace the bill, and reneging on those promises by leaving it in place.
What is news here is that 38 percent of Republicans are so opposed to Obamacare that they see forcing it to fail as a better option than living indefinitely with the law. Frustration among many Republicans is running high.
CNBC also reported that 64 percent of people said it was good that the GOP leadership’s bill did not pass, which is true. However, this disapproval of the Republican bill does not equal support for Obamacare.
CNBC left out that about half of those people (29 percent of the total) said they support efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare, but had concerns about the bill itself.
That means just 31 percent of the people opposed to the GOP bill in this poll oppose it because they want to keep Obamacare. Meanwhile, a majority (58 percent) support repeal efforts.
The Kaiser Family Foundation also explored the reasons why the GOP bill failed to pass.
Seventy-four percent of Democrats think the bill failed because it went too far in cutting programs. That’s not surprising, because some Democrats like Obamacare and don’t want it changed.
However, 58 percent of Republicans say it failed because it didn’t go far enough in repealing Obamacare—twice as many as those that said it went too far (29 percent).
When it comes to who to blame for the bill’s failure, Republicans are more likely to blame Democrats (47 percent), and Democrats are more likely to blame the president (43 percent).
That’s nothing surprising. People tend to be partisan when it comes to assigning blame. Similarly, Republicans are more likely to say the problem was with disagreements between the Republicans and Democrats (61 percent), than internal disagreements in the party (35 percent).
Don’t let that distract you though. When Democrats are taken out of the equation, blame falls pretty equally among the House Freedom Caucus (27 percent), House Speaker Paul Ryan (27 percent), and moderate Republicans (22 percent).
Moderate and liberal Republicans are more likely to blame “the conservative Freedom Caucus” (34 percent).
But tellingly, conservatives are more likely to blame Ryan (30 percent) for failing to stand by them and lead than blame moderate Republicans (18 percent) for causing divisions over conservative policies that cost the bill votes.
So what’s next?
Obamacare remains unpopular. After a few months of Kaiser’s poll tracking favorability of Obamacare marginally higher than unfavorability for the first time in years, the two measures have once again converged at 46 percent.
With 61 percent of Americans now saying that Republicans own the still-unpopular bill and its consequences moving forward, and with Obamacare’s problems only multiplying as premiums rise and insurers continue to pull out of state exchanges, a public opinion disaster seems to be looming on the horizon.
Eighty percent of Republicans say they are confident Trump will be able to deliver on his campaign promise to get better health care at lower costs. It’s dropping off slightly from December (85 percent), as expected, but that’s still high.
Seventy-five percent of Republicans also say Congress and the administration need to keep working on a plan to repeal and replace Obamacare. The road forward is clear. They just need to walk it.
*Originally published in the Daily Signal, click here.