The Obamacare debate goes on – is it still working for Democrats?

December 20, 2018, 3:00 PM GMT+0

62% of Democrats say they are very concerned about healthcare reform

Last week, a Texas judge ruled that the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) was unconstitutional. But at least for now, as the case continues to move through the federal court system, the ACA remains law, and the health care coverage rules the ACA established, continue. The latest Economist/YouGov Poll finds most Americans aware of that decision, although just a third say they have heard “a lot” about the ruling.

Health care matters a great deal to Democrats, and was a major reason that Democrats recaptured a majority of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. In exit polls, 41% named it as the country’s most important issue, and this group gave Democrats 75% of their votes. In this week’s poll, 62% of Democrats say they are very concerned about health care reform, more than twice the percentage of Republicans who share this view.

There are many Americans who know what it is like to not have health insurance. More than half (55%) of adults say there was at least some time in their lives when they went without health insurance, with Democrats and independents being the most likely to say this has happened to them. Just 48% of Republicans say the same.

But health care coverage seems to have become harder to get. Americans 65 and over are the only age group where a majority says they have always had health insurance. Among all younger age groups, a majority say there has been a time when they went without. Income also matters – the higher your income, the more likely you are to have coverage.

The pattern showing the importance of income and age when it comes to the availability of health care coverage (or the lack of it) throughout a person’s life also appears when people are asked if they have coverage today. Less than a quarter of one percent of respondents 65 and older in the survey said they were currently without coverage or were unsure they had it (that rounds to zero percent). However, this is the case for a quarter of individuals under the age of 30.

The largest regional percentage saying they had no health insurance or that they weren’t sure about it was in the South. 15% of Southerners said they have no coverage, and another 6% said they didn’t know. Nationally, the uncovered group is far more likely than those with coverage to believe the health care system needs to be completely rebuilt: 44% of those without coverage say this, compared with 27% of the rest of the public. But most people think there needs to be more than just minor reform to the system.

As for the law itself, Obamacare is more supported than not, though (as was the case during the debates in Congress last year on repeal of the ACA) the overall margin of approval over disapproval isn’t large. Democrats support Obamacare 85% to 10%, Republicans oppose it by almost exactly the same margin (83% to 11%) and independents are evenly divided. Those who approve the program outnumber those who disapprove in every age group except those 65 and older. Very few of those in that age group would be personally affected by the law, as the vast majority say they receive health coverage through Medicare, which became law more than 50 years ago.

Health care remains a Democratic issue. By 42% to 31%, Americans trust the Democrats more than the Republicans to handle it. It is not a good issue for President Trump: only 37% approve of his handling of health care, and nearly half, 47%, do not.

See the full toplines and tables results.

Photo: Getty

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