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Americans support key features of health-reform law, poll finds

Consumer Reports News: January 28, 2011 04:14 PM

Everybody hates the health reform law, right? Not exactly, according to a series of polls released by the Kaiser Family Foundation over the past several months. They've found that roughly equal percentages of Americans—about 40 to 45 percent—support or oppose the law, mostly along party lines. About 10 to 20 percent have been undecided or refuse to answer.

The polls also show that even people who oppose the law often have mixed feelings. For example, in the latest poll, conducted in January, only a third of respondents supported Republican efforts to cut funding to implement the law.

And majorities in January’s poll and another conducted last November support the law’s early benefits and major provisions. For example:
  • 85 percent support the discounts seniors will get on prescription drugs, which began this year. 
  • 79 percent support subsidies to help low and moderate income people buy insurance, a central feature of the law scheduled to start in 2014.
  • 78 percent support tax credits to small businesses to offer coverage to workers.  The credits are available starting this year.
  • 71 percent support prohibiting insurers from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions—a provision that goes into effect in 2014.
  • 66 percent support making insurers meet a threshold of spending on actual medical care, as opposed to administrative costs and profit. This provision goes into effect this year.
  • 66 percent support expanding Medicaid, scheduled to start in 2014.
  • 65 percent support the law’s provision, now in effect, making some preventive care services free to Medicare beneficiaries.   

About 76 percent of respondents did say that they opposed the “individual mandate” portion of the law, which will impose financial penalties on people who don’t buy insurance. But that figure was cut in half when they were asked if they would still oppose it if it meant that insurers could continue to deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions.

“It’s a split picture on the politics, which probably won’t change for awhile,” said Drew Altman, KFF’s President and CEO at a press conference. “But there’s no question when people are asked about the actual benefits, they like and support them. And as more people directly experience those benefits, they might change their mind about the law in general.”      

—Steven Findlay, Senior Health Policy Analyst

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