The Affordable Care Act: Better than many expected?

May 31, 2015, 2:58 PM UTC

In 2010, 76% of Republicans expected to receive worse quality health care as a result of the ACA. Today, only 38% say their care has actually gotten worse.

The Affordable Care Act seems slowly to have become more acceptable.  For the last few months in Economist/YouGov Polls, fewer Americans have wanted to repeal Obamacare than have wanted it kept or expanded.  The formerly uninsured seem happy with the benefits they have received.   And for a number of opponents of the law, some fears they held with the act was passed in March 2010 haven’t been realized. 

Half the public say they have seen no change in the quality of their health care.  Just before the act was passed and signed, than number was smaller than the percentage expecting their health care would get worse.

The difference between expectation and current assessment is especially striking for Republicans, 76% of whom claimed their own health care would get worse if the Affordable Care Act became law.  Today, just half that percentage of Republicans, 38%, say their care actually has gotten worse.  More Republicans than independents or Democrats report that happening.  Half of Republicans say there has been no change in quality.

There has also been a decline, though not so steep (from 86% to 67%), in the percentage of Republicans who believe the law rations health care and the percentage who believe the law mandates end-of-life consultations with doctors for the elderly.  In 2010, 71% of Republicans believed that was part of the law.  Now, just under half think that.

In 2010, two-thirds of Republicans believed they could lose their own health care coverage if the ACA became law.  However, nearly all Republicans in this poll currently have coverage. 

On the other hand, some of the high hopes for Obamacare from its supporters have also not been met.  Three in four Democrats thought the law would result in long-term savings in health care coasts.  While Democrats are still hopeful that it will do this, fewer now think this than did so before.  

There are some things that Americans of all parties believed were part of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, and agree is part of the law today: that Americans can keep their health care coverage even if they become seriously ill, and pre-existing conditions will not prevent people from getting medical coverage. 

In fact, a majority of the public sees the number of Americans with health care coverage increasing.  In this week’s poll, more than half, 56%, say the number of people with health care coverage has increased in the last 12 months.  40% of Republicans agree.

In 2010, 52% expected to pay more under Obamacare, either through higher taxes or higher health care costs.  Today, 44% say their costs, taxes or premiums, have risen.  63% of Republicans, but only 23% of Democrats say this has happened.

Despite the number of positive changes, by no means is a majority happy with Obamacare.  40% call it a failure while only 29% label it a success.  But as the law continues to take effect, many Americans may have become used to it, and have become less willing to get rid of it than they were beforehand.

See the full poll results

Economist/YouGov poll archives can be found here.