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43% of Americans don't know the ACA is still law

Posted by John McDonough  August 28, 2013 08:08 PM

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The new Kaiser Health Tracking Poll, released on Tuesday, always provides food for thought.  Three numbers stuck out for me: 43, 37, 57.

  • 43% of Americans either believe that the Affordable Care Act is no longer law or are unsure.
  • 37% of Americans say they have a favorable opinion about the ACA (42% unfavorable and 20% unsure).
  • 57% oppose cutting off funding to implement the ACA.

God love Americans!  Here's the jaw dropper:

11A unsure.jpg

Love the ACA or hate it, that's your red-white-blue privilege.  But more than 2 of every 5 American adults are unsure whether it's law?  Wow.  I asked Mollyanne Brodie from the Kaiser Family Foundation whether the 43% skew in either direction in support or opposition to the law.  She reported back that the poll crosstabs don't provide that information, but other surveys they have done show that no clear positive/negative trend among the deeply misinformed.

Here is how Americans view the law, a few months before major January 1 implementation:
11B support.jpg

Status quo throughout 2013, slightly more opposed than supportive.  In prior polls, Kaiser also separated the unfavorables into those who want the law repealed versus those who want the law strengthened.  The latter, when combined with the favorables, shows a much smaller share of Americans who actually want the law repealed. 

That helps to make sense of the other interesting result, again consistent over time, showing a solid 57% majority of Americans opposed to defunding the law prior to implementation -- the strategy favored by most Congressional Republicans.  Here's the chart:
11C defunding.jpg

Just about no erosion in this number since 2011.  So in this case, only 36% of Americans agree with the Congressional Republican strategy.  What else might be influencing this last set of numbers?

How about this: also on Tuesday, the Michigan Senate voted to become the 25th state to approve expanding its Medicaid program to all of its low income citizens, as permitted by the ACA.  Michigan Republican Governor Rick Snyder and the Republican-controlled Senate and House have all agreed to the expansion. Snyder has a lot of company among Republican governors who support the ACA's Medicaid expansion, including New Jersey's Chris Christie, Florida's Rick Scott, Ohio's John Kasich, New Mexico's Susana Martinez, and more. 

When Republicans in Congress try to repeal or defund the ACA, they are no longer just attacking the policy preference of Democrats.  They are increasingly attacking the policy preference of their fellow Republicans as well.
This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

John E. McDonough is a professor of practice at the Harvard School of Public Health. He is the author of the book “Inside National Health Reform”, published in 2011 by More »


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