September 4, 2020 | Updates

Americans Support Building On What’s Working In Health Care, Not Starting Over

WASHINGTON – As health care remains at the top of voters’ minds and the unaffordable costs and negative consequences of new government-controlled health insurance systems like the public option become clearer, more Americans are urging candidates to focus on building on what’s working and fixing what isn’t – not starting over with a one-size-fits-all system controlled by politicians.

Recent polling shows growing support for our current health care system – particularly the Affordable Care Act which would be threatened under new government-controlled health insurance systems.  In fact, the Kaiser Family Foundation finds that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is “gaining in popularity,” and that threatening to repeal the health care law “has become a political liability.” 

“Since Trump won the election in 2016, we now have consistently found that a larger share of the public holds favorable views” of the health law, said Ashley Kirzinger, associate director of public opinion and survey research for the foundation … The foundation’s polling found that, in July 2014, 55% of voters opposed the law, while 36% favored it. By July 2020, that had flipped, with 51% favoring the law and 38% opposing it.  A shift was seen across all political groups … Public support for individual provisions of the ACA — such as protections for people with preexisting conditions or allowing young adults to stay on their parents’ health plans until age 26 — have proved even more popular than the law as a whole.  

… Following the passage of the ACA, Democrats didn’t reference the law in their campaigns, said Erika Franklin Fowler, a government professor at Wesleyan University and the director of the Wesleyan Media Project, which tracks political advertising … Then, in the 2018 election, Democrats seized on the shift in public opinion, touting the effects of the law and criticizing Republicans for their attempts to overturn it.  “In the decade I have been tracking political advertising, there wasn’t a single-issue topic that was as prominent as health care was in 2018,” she said.

As Jon Cowan and Jim Kessler of the center-left think tank Third Way note in an op-ed in The Washington Post, “Democratspledge to preserve and expand on President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act was a decisive factor in flipping the House from red to blue in 2018.”  Other analyses back this up:

  • “[A] majority of those [Democratic Members] who flipped their seats from red to blue focused on strengthening the 2010 health care law and protecting coverage for people with pre-existing medical conditions,” Roll Call reports, noting the significant “risks for any politician that proposes dramatic change and uncertainty in a system that is central to Americans’ well-being.”
  • As one Democratic strategist put it to The New York Times: “Most of the freshmen who helped take back the House got elected on: ‘We’re going to protect your health insurance even if you have a pre-existing condition,’ not ‘We’re going to take this whole system and throw it out the window.’”
  • The Washington Post reports that by “veer[ing] left,” Democratic presidential hopefuls are “leaving behind [the party’s] successful midterm strategy.”
  • And The New York Times reports that some Democratic governors are “anxious” and “alarmed that their party’s presidential candidates are embracing policies they see as unrealistic and politically risky.  And they are especially concerned about proposals that would eliminate private health insurance … Noting that many voters were already uneasy about losing their coverage, [Michigan Governor Gretchen] Whitmer said, ‘I don’t think feeding into that is a good idea.’”

Meanwhile, Polling Shows Support For Building On What’s Working in Health Care: 

  • The third edition of Voter Vitals – a tracking poll conducted nationwide and in 2020 battleground states by Locust Street Group for the Partnership for America’s Health Care Future – finds that “72% of voters are unwilling to pay any more for health care and 66% are unwilling to pay any more in taxes for universal coverage,” and a majority of Americans do not support one-size-fits-all government-controlled health insurance while a supermajority of Americans (66 percent) prefer to build on our current health system rather than replace it with something new (34 percent).  
  • “Americans continue to prefer a healthcare system based on private insurance (54%) over a government-run healthcare system (42%),” according to Gallup’s annual Health and Healthcare poll, which finds that a government-controlled health insurance system “remains the minority view in the U.S.  This could create a challenge in a general election campaign for a Democratic presidential nominee advocating a ‘Medicare for All’ or other healthcare plan that would greatly expand the government’s role in the healthcare system.”
  • And a recent survey by the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, finds that Americans “are still more likely to prefer the private sector than the government on driving innovation in health care, improving quality and … providing coverage,” The Associated Press reports.
  •  Additionally, Gallup finds that the vast majority of Americans with private coverage rate their health care coverage (71 percent) and quality (79 percent) as ‘excellent,’ or ‘good.’ 


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