Healthcare Reform Gains Some Public Support

Elyas Bakhtiari, July 6, 2010

Although public opinion about the recently passed Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act remains split, support for the overhaul has increased steadily since the legislation was passed in March.

One of the best examples of the trend is's aggregate of nearly two dozen polls tracking opinions about healthcare reform. Public opinion reached a low in January, when about 52% opposed reform and 40% were in favor, according to the tracker. However, the latest averages show the country evenly split—44% favor the legislation and 44% oppose it.

The most recent poll on healthcare reform, released this week from the Kaiser Family Foundation, shows a 48% plurality in favor of the legislation and 41% opposed. That nearly flips the numbers from the previous month, when the KFF poll found 41% in favor of the bill and 44% opposed.

Not all polls show net support for reform, however. An NBC/WSJ poll released last week found that although support increased from 38% to 40% from May to June, disapproval held steady at 44%.

Now that healthcare reform is no longer center stage in Congress or the media, more people say they understand the legislation and its impact, according to the KFF survey. Seventy percent said they understand how the legislation will impact them in the June survey, compared to only 61% in May.

When asked about individual provisions in the legislation, Americans were even more supportive of most of the law. More than 60% had favorable views of health insurance exchanges, expanding Medicaid, allowing children to stay on their parents' plans until 26, restrictions on insurance companies, high-risk pools, tax credits for small businesses, and increasing the Medicare payroll tax for high-income individuals.

The mandate to purchase health insurance or pay a fine had the least amount of support, with 65% of respondents expressing unfavorable opinions.

Although the increase in public opinion is not unexpected now that the debate has died down and the opposition to the legislation is less vocal, it is unclear how the legislation is now viewed by providers and other members of the healthcare sector.

Several members of the American Medical Association have recently been critical of the organization's support for reform, particularly because of Congress' inability to fix the sustainable growth rate formula that requires cuts to Medicare reimbursements for doctors. But there haven't been polls of physician opinion since the legislation's passage to gauge the intensity of the disagreement.

Reform could enter the public spotlight again as midterm elections approach in November. However, the KFF poll found that reform votes are unlikely to sway the elections one way or the other. Roughly equal amounts said that a candidate's reform vote would make them more likely to vote for him or her (35%) or more likely to vote against him or her (32%). Nearly one-third said a candidate's vote wouldn't matter either way.

Elyas Bakhtiari Elyas Bakhtiari is a freelance editor for HealthLeaders Media.
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