Only 1 in 5 Wants to See Subsidies for Health Insurance Eliminated: Poll

HealthDay/Harris Poll finding comes on eve of Supreme Court ruling on legality of the Obamacare subsidies

09:00 AM EDT Jun 22, 2015 Rating
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Only 1 in 5 Wants to See Subsidies for Health Insurance Eliminated: Poll

HealthDay News -- Only one in five Americans wants to see the elimination of federal subsidies for people who buy health insurance under Obamacare, a new HealthDay/Harris Poll reveals.

The U.S. Supreme Court will rule this month on the legality of such subsidies, possibly as soon as Monday.

Overall, just 19 percent of Americans said they wanted to see the subsidies eliminated, which would force more than 6 million people to pay the full cost of their health coverage. About 45 percent support continuing the subsidies and 36 percent said they aren't sure.

Even Republicans are loath to halt the subsidies, which are provided through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to help make health insurance affordable for millions of low- and middle-income Americans, the poll found.

Only 36 percent of Republicans said they wanted the subsidies ended outright, while 24 percent said people should continue to get the subsidies and 39 percent said they weren't sure.

"Perhaps the most striking finding is how few people, and especially how few Republicans, want those who are now receiving subsidies through the federal exchange to lose them," said Humphrey Taylor, chairman emeritus of The Harris Poll.

At least 6.4 million Americans in 34 states could lose the subsidies -- which come in the form of tax credits -- that are worth $2 billion a month to help pay health insurance premiums. Many recipients have said that without the subsidies, health insurance would be unaffordable.

Plaintiffs in the case, King v. Burwell, argue that due to the exact wording of the Affordable Care Act, only people in states that established their own health insurance exchanges -- marketplaces to buy insurance -- should be eligible for the subsidies.

But only 13 states and the District of Columbia created their own exchanges. Most of the states that chose not to create exchanges are run by Republicans opposed to Obamacare.

The estimated 6.4 million people whose subsidies hang in the balance purchased their insurance through the federally run HealthCare.gov online exchange.

The new poll numbers shed light on the political challenge confronting the Republican Party. The party has fought the Affordable Care Act since it was signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2010. And nearly all current GOP presidential candidates have come out in favor of repealing the health-care reform law.

Many Republicans in Congress have said they would support a temporary continuation of subsidies for people struggling to get by. But they would face an uphill battle coming up with a permanent alternative, given the GOP's antipathy toward Obamacare and internal divisions over what should be done next.

John Ullyot, a GOP strategist and former senior Senate aide, told The Hill that the politics of the case before the Supreme Court "are extremely treacherous and tricky for Republicans."

"If the subsidies are thrown out by the court, Republicans are in the position of having to create a fix that would be seen as a problem by their most conservative supporters," Ullyot said.

Public opinion about health-care reform likely would end up spilling over into the 2016 presidential election, Taylor said.

"If the Supreme Court decides that people using the federal exchange should not get subsidies, this may change the debate about the ACA and create problems for the Republicans and their presidential candidates," he said. "Strong anti-ACA positions needed to win the support of Republican primary voters could create problems for their nominee in the general election."

Most people in the new poll would want either the states or Congress to act to preserve the subsidies, should the Supreme Court strike them down:

The poll also revealed the ongoing sharp divisions among Americans over the Affordable Care Act -- divisions that have existed since the law was passed five years ago. Twenty-four percent of Americans want to keep Obamacare exactly as it is. Just over one-quarter -- 28 percent, including 53 percent of Republicans -- want to repeal it. And one-third of Americans said they would like to change some parts of the law.

The bulk of the opposition to the Affordable Care Act centers on the provision known as the "individual mandate." This requires most Americans to have health insurance or pay a penalty in the form of a tax. Republicans view this requirement as a gross government intrusion into people's lives.

Taylor said the attention that's starting to focus on the pending Supreme Court decision could make people more aware of provisions in the law that are popular, even among Americans opposed to Obamacare. Some of those provisions include parents' ability to keep their children on their health plans until the children turn 26, and the right to purchase insurance even if you have a pre-existing health problem.

"Many polls have shown how few people know what is, and what is not, in the ACA," he said. "The Supreme Court's decision may be the first time that many people become aware that so many people have been receiving subsidies to reduce the cost of their health insurance."

This HealthDay/Harris Poll was conducted online, in English, between June 15 and 17, 2015, and it involved 2,027 adults aged 18 and over.

By Dennis Thompson
HealthDay Reporter

More information

To learn more about the Affordable Care Act, visit the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

 

TABLE 1A

FAVOR REPEALING OR KEEPING REFORM BILL - TRENDED

“Thinking about the Affordable Care Act, or ACA, the health care reform that was signed into law by President Obama, do you think that the law should...?”

Base: U.S. Adults

 

December 2010

February 2011

October 2012

February 2015

June
2015

%

%

%

%

%

Remain in Place

22

22

27

26

24

Be Repealed

28

27

31

30

28

Have Some Parts Changed

21

24

22

28

34

Not Sure

39

27

19

17

14

Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

 

 

TABLE 1B

FAVOR REPEALING OR KEEPING REFORM BILL 

Summary by Gender and Political Affiliation

“Thinking about the Affordable Care Act, or ACA, the health care reform that was signed into law by President Obama, do you think that the law should…?"

Base: All Adults

 

Total

Gender

Political Affiliation

Male

Female

Rep

Dem

Ind

 

%

%

%

%

%

%

 

Remain in Place

24

24

25

11

40

21

 

Be Repealed

28

29

26

53

9

28

 

Have Parts Changed

34

34

33

28

36

38

 

Not sure

14

13

16

8

15

13

 

 

 

TABLE 2A

HOW SHOULD SUPREME COURT DECIDE THE CASE

Summary by Gender and Political Affiliation

“Under the Affordable Care Act, the government provides subsidies (i.e. pays part of the cost) for those eligible to reduce the cost of buying health insurance through health exchanges run by some states and the Federal Government.

The Supreme Court will soon decide whether the government can do this in states where there are no state exchanges and people use the federal exchange.

Which one of the following decisions would you like the Supreme Court to make?"

Base: All Adults

 

Total

Gender

Political Affiliation

Male

Female

Rep

Dem

Ind

 

%

%

%

%

%

%

 

Allow people who used the Federal exchange to continue to get subsidies

45

45

44

24

66

43

 

Eliminate the subsidies so people who used the federal exchange must pay the full cost of their insurance

19

26

12

36

7

21

 

Not sure

36

29

43

39

27

36

 

 

 

TABLE 2B

HOW SHOULD SUPREME COURT DECIDE THE CASE

Summary by ACA opinions

“Under the Affordable Care Act, the government provides subsidies (i.e. pays part of the cost) for those eligible to reduce the cost of buying health insurance through health exchanges run by some states and the Federal Government.

The Supreme Court will soon decide whether the government can do this in states where there are no state exchanges and people use the federal exchange.

Which one of the following decisions would you like the Supreme Court to make?"

Base: All Adults

 

Total

ACA opinions

Remain in Place

Be Repealed

Have some parts changed

%

%

%

%

Allow people who used the Federal exchange to continue to get subsidies

45

82

14

52

Eliminate the subsidies so people who used the federal exchange must pay the full cost of their insurance

19

6

45

12

Not sure

36

12

41

35

 

TABLE 3A

ACTIONS FAVORED/OPPOSED IF SUPREME COURT ELIMINATES SUBSIDIES

Grid Summary

“If the Supreme Court decides to eliminate the subsidies for people who use the Federal exchange, would you favor or oppose each of the following?"

Base: All Adults

 

Favor

Oppose

Not Sure

%

%

%

States without exchanges should set them up so people using these exchanges can get the subsidies.

45

18

37

Congress should change the law so all people using the Federal exchange can get the subsidies.

41

21

38

There should be no subsidies for anyone buying insurance through state exchanges.

23

37

40

There should be no subsidies for anyone buying insurance through Federal exchanges

22

39

38

 

 

TABLE 3B

FAVORED ACTIONS IF SUPREME COURT ELIMINATES SUBSIDIES

“Favor” Summary by Gender and Political Affiliation

“If the Supreme Court decides to eliminate the subsidies for people who use the Federal exchange, would you favor or oppose each of the following?"

Base: All Adults

 

Total

Gender

Political Affiliation

Male

Female

Rep

Dem

Ind

%

%

%

%

%

%

States without exchanges should set them up so people using these exchanges can get the subsidies.

45

45

44

28

61

46

Congress should change the law so all people using the Federal exchange can get the subsidies.

41

43

40

26

58

39

There should be no subsidies for anyone buying insurance through state exchanges.

23

30

16

38

10

26

There should be no subsidies for anyone buying insurance through Federal exchanges

22

29

16

36

11

26

 


 

TABLE 3C

OPPOSED ACTIONS IF SUPREME COURT ELIMINATES SUBSIDIES

“Oppose” Summary by Gender and Political Affiliation

“If the Supreme Court decides to eliminate the subsidies for people who use the Federal exchange, would you favor or oppose each of the following?"

Base: All Adults

 

Total

Gender

Political Affiliation

Male

Female

Rep

Dem

Ind

%

%

%

%

%

%

There should be no subsidies for anyone buying insurance through Federal exchanges

39

39

40

26

55

36

There should be no subsidies for anyone buying insurance through state exchanges.

37

37

38

22

54

36

Congress should change the law so all people using the Federal exchange can get the subsidies.

21

27

16

35

10

24

States without exchanges should set them up so people using these exchanges can get the subsidies.

18

23

14

31

8

20

 

Methodology

This HealthDay/Harris Poll was conducted online, in English, within the United States between June 15 and 17, 2015 among 2,027 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online. 

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, The Harris Poll avoids the words “margin of error” as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Poll surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in our panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of The Harris Poll.

Product and brand names are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective owners.

About The Harris Poll®

Begun in 1963, The Harris Poll is one of the longest running surveys measuring public opinion in the U.S. and is highly regarded throughout the world. The nationally representative polls, conducted primarily online, measure the knowledge, opinions, behaviors and motivations of the general public. New and trended polls on a wide variety of subjects including politics, the economy, healthcare, foreign affairs, science and technology, sports and entertainment, and lifestyles are published weekly. 

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