Has the uninsured rate gone down? Americans disagree

July 18, 2014, 1:01 PM GMT+0

Most Democrats think the number of people with health insurance has increased since last July, while most Republicans do not

All indications are that under Obamacare there has been a drop in the number of people who are uninsured. All polls, including this one, find more people this year than last reporting health care coverage. However, in the latest Economist/YouGov Poll as many people say the number covered by health insurance has either decreased or not changed as believe reports that the number has in fact increased.

The answers to this question illustrate how partisan the debate over health care has become – with disagreement over facts as well as policy. Most Democrats, 63%, believe the number of Americans with coverage has increased, compared with only 26% of Republicans who believe that. More than a third of Republicans say those with coverage has gone down in the last year.

The employer mandate delay

Nowhere is the partisan response to the health care law more clear than in how people look at the implementation of the employer mandate. A majority of the public has always supported requiring companies that employ more than 50 workers to provide health coverage – that is, majorities of Democrats and independents. Republicans have opposed that mandate, and still do.

The Administration delayed implementation of that employer mandate until 2015, and Americans’ reaction to that delay are at odds with their original opinions on the matter. In this poll, the delay was identified as one made by the Obama Administration. The delay is now a justification for a lawsuit against the President by Republicans in the House of Representatives.

Those who support the mandate (more Democrats than Republicans) also support its delayed implementation; those who oppose the mandate (more Republicans than Democrats) also oppose delaying its implementation.

The arguments in favor of the lawsuit claim that the President overstepped his Constitutional authority by postponing the employer mandate without Congressional approval. When the question is asked without reference to the employer mandate delay, 49% say he has. But nearly the same percentage thought he had back in March, before the lawsuit threat. In this week’s poll, Republicans are almost unanimous on the question: 85% say the President has exceeded his Constitutional authority.

Concerns about presidents overstepping their authority are not new. In March, 40% retrospectively believed George W. Bush had done so when he was in office.

More Americans say the lawsuit is motivated mostly by politics, with Republicans wanting to damage the President, than believe Republicans are bringing suit because of a genuine belief that the President’s actions have been serious enough to warrant it. And while a majority of Republicans think the lawsuit is warranted by the President’s actions, a third of them see politics as at least partly responsible.

The increased level of criticism in the last week may have affected overall opinion about the Affordable Care Act. Positive feelings had inched upwards recently: lately, those favoring keeping or expanding the law outnumbered those who wanted to repeal it. This week, the opposite is true. Slightly more (45%) would repeal Obamacare than would keep or expand it (42%).

Image: Getty

Full results can be found here.

Economist/YouGov poll archives can be found here.