What Americans Really Want in Health Care Reform
Policy + Politics

What Americans Really Want in Health Care Reform

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Republicans say they still have hope of repealing and replacing Obamacare. But if or when they do go back to the drawing board to devise legislation that has a better chance of passing than the divisive, poorly conceived and ill-fated American Health Care Act, they’d be wise to keep in mind what Americans actually want from their health care system. So Paul Ryan might want to keep the infographic below, from the Journal of the American Medical Association, handy.

Based on the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Health Tracking Poll, the infographic provides a sense of where Democrats and Republicans agree and where the partisan divide remains wide.

Related: Now It’s Democrats’ Turn to Make a Health Care Push: Medicare for All

A few key takeaways from the Kaiser polling (you can find more of the results here):

Favorable views of Obamacare are near an all-time high, and a strong majority of Americans favor many provisions of the law, like allowing young adults to stay on their parents’ insurance plans until age 26, creating health insurance exchanges for small businesses and individuals, providing subsidies for lower income people to buy insurance, prohibiting insurance providers from denying coverage due to pre-existing conditions, and giving states the option of expanding Medicaid coverage. For each of those policies, support among Republicans is at least 63 percent, and it’s even higher among independents and Democrats. (Support for the individual mandate that requires Americans to have health insurance or pay a fine is much weaker, at 21 percent among Republicans, 30 percent for independents and 57 percent among Democrats.)

That all suggests that fixing Obamacare’s flaws might be a more popular approach to health care reform than repealing the law, and Kaiser’s polling earlier this month confirmed that 51 percent of Americans said lawmakers should not vote for repeal. Overall, just 37 percent of those polled (including 63 percent of Republicans) said repealing the Affordable Care Act is a top priority — a number that, coincidentally, is roughly in line with President Trump’s approval rating. At the same time, most Americans say that out-of-pocket costs for health care and drugs must come down.

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But Ryan and his colleagues, especially the members of the House Freedom Caucus who fought for the creation of a more free-market system, should also note that the ideological debate over the government’s role in health care has largely been resolved, at least in the court of public opinion. Only 35 percent of those polled — and just 50 percent of Republicans — said that scaling back the federal government’s role in health care was a top priority. And 64 percent of the public favors providing a guaranteed level of health coverage for seniors and low-income people, even if it requires an increased role and higher spending by the federal government.

That may be too much for conservative lawmakers to swallow, and bridging the differences between what the public wants and what conservatives have promised their constituents may make it impossible to come up with a Republican Plan B that can pass both the House and Senate.

Public Opinion on Health Care