Americans Are Increasingly Schizophrenic Over Health Care Reform

Health care reform repeal effort
Health care reform repeal effort

What do Americans think of health care reform? The short answer is "everything." According to a new survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health, Americans' views are all over the map.

As Republicans have stepped up efforts to repeal the health insurance reform law, the percentage of Americans who oppose it grew 9 points in January, the survey found. That means half of Americans are now against the law, compared to 41% who support it. But at the same time, a majority of those surveyed oppose the idea of defunding parts of the act.

In the survey of 1,502 adults in early January, about 28% said they want to expand the law, 19% want to keep it as is, 23% want to repeal and replace it and 20% just want to repeal it. Yet despite all the opposition, 62% of Americans -- including 38% of Republicans -- actually disapprove of defunding or otherwise changing parts of the law, according to the study.

"The public is frustrated with politics as usual, and may be saying that defunding a law is not how government should work," Mollyann Brodie, director of the Kaiser Foundation's Public Opinion and Survey Research group, said in a statement.

Deficit Concerns Continue

More than half of Americans believe the reform will entail too much government involvement, according to the survey, while 60% think it will add to the budget deficit, even though the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office found the act would reduce the deficit.

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Still, certain parts of the law remain highly popular: 85% of Americans favor the provision to gradually close the Medicare "doughnut hole"; 79% approve of providing health-insurance subsidies for low- and moderate-income Americans; 76% favor establishing a voluntary insurance program to help pay for long-term-care services; and 67% approve expanding Medicaid.

Conversely, 51% oppose the mandate for employers to offer health insurance or pay a penalty, and a whopping 76% oppose the individual mandate for nearly all Americans to obtain health coverage or face a fine.

The survey also found that about two-thirds of Americans are "very concerned" about the rising federal budget deficit and want Congress to act quickly to reduce it. (Democrats largely preferred to wait until the economy gets better.) Respondents said they prefer spending cuts over new taxes, but the survey found little consensus about where meaningful savings could be achieved.

"A Huge Gap in Basic Beliefs"

Perhaps unsurprisingly, it was easier to find agreement on where respondents don't want the reductions to come from. Nearly two-thirds of Americans, including large majorities among Republicans, oppose spending cuts in Social Security; 56% oppose Medicare reductions; and 47% oppose any cuts to Medicaid. Only the relatively small foreign-aid budget received support for major slashing.

"Budget experts say that the budget deficit cannot be tackled without taking on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid spending, or by raising taxes," Kaiser CEO Drew Altman said in a statement. "But the American people do not believe this at all. There is a huge gap in basic beliefs and understandings of the problem and what it takes to solve it."

Originally published