It’s become clear that the American public is not so down on the Affordable Care Act (ACA), at least not anymore. The Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) has been conducting regular surveys of Americans to track their views on the ACA. The KFF polls have found a steady increase in support over the past several months, as the Trump administration and Republican members of Congress made repeated efforts to repeal and replace the ACA, nicknamed Obamacare.
That may be some of the reasons why the latest KFF poll in August found that 52% of Americans are in favor of the ACA. That is an increase of 10 percentage points since June 2016, and a nearly 20 percentage point increase since November 2013, when only 33% of Americans liked the healthcare law.
Not only is public sentiment for the ACA growing, an analysis recently published by KFF finds the intensity of support for the ACA to have shifted considerably in the law’s favor. Here’s what the analysis had to say:
“Since its passage, the ACA has suffered from what is sometimes referred to as an intensity gap, with the share of people holding strongly unfavorable views outnumbering the share with strongly favorable views. In other words, people who disliked the law tended to hate it, while those who liked it tended to have more lukewarm feelings. That gap largely closed beginning in the spring of 2017, and in the last four Kaiser tracking polls from May through August, the share with a very favorable view has been roughly equal to the share with a very unfavorable view. This shift occurred because of an increase in the share with a very favorable view, from roughly two in ten from the time the law was passed through early 2017, to about three in ten since May 2017. At the same time, the share with a very unfavorable view has held relatively steady at around three in ten for most of the seven years since the law was passed.”
The change in sentiment, according to KFF, is being driven by Democrats and independents who have become more enthusiastic about the ACA as Republicans in Congress were introducing legislation that threatened to take away the opportunity for some Americans to have affordable healthcare insurance. But with the threat to the ACA seemingly averted, will the favorable sentiment last? Says the KFF analysis: “Now that ACA repeal has failed to pass the Senate – at least for the time being – it remains to be seen whether Democrats’ increased enthusiasm for the law will continue, or whether strong support will wane as Congress turns its attention to other topics and news about the ACA is likely to be focused on the health insurance marketplaces moving into the 2017 open enrollment period.”
A recent poll by Public Policy Polling (PPP) indicates that depths to which Congressional Republicans have sunk in public opinion, in part over the ACA repeal and replace debacle. According to PPP’s analysis of the poll results: “Their failed efforts on health care are a big part of what’s causing Congressional Republicans problems. Only 25% of voters support the health care bill that was considered by Congress last month, to 57% who disapprove of it. Even among GOP voters there’s less than majority support, with 48% in favor of it to 34% who are opposed. At this point only 33% of voters think the best path forward on health care is repealing Obamacare, to 57% who think it’s keeping the current law and making fixes to it as necessary. Voters say by a 21-point margin that they’re less likely to vote for a GOP member of Congress who supported the repeal bill- 46% are less likely to vote for such a person to 25% who are more likely to, with 22% saying it doesn’t make a difference either way. Overall Congress has a 9% approval rating, with 73% of voters disapproving of it.”
Recognizing the seemingly infinite patience of the American public is running out and with 2018 mid-term elections on the horizon, lawmakers are setting a more bipartisan tone toward healthcare reform and the ACA. The U.S. Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee is expected to hold hearings in September to discuss bipartisan legislation for a one-year extension of the federal payments to insurers. In the House of Representatives, a new effort to address healthcare reform has a bipartisan group of more than 40 House members calling themselves the Problem Solvers Caucus working along a parallel path. Their five-point plan to address concerns with the ACA includes mandatory funding for government payments to insurance companies to reduce insurance costs for qualifying Americans and creating a fund for states to reduce premiums and limit insurer losses.
In the meantime, federal agencies continue to move forward with fulfilling their roles in carrying out the ACA. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services this month authorized the next round of subsidy payments to the insurance companies providing health insurance through government exchanges to help offset costs for Americans with lower incomes. And the IRS has issued new draft forms and its schedule for filing ACA-mandated information for the 2017 tax year. The agency has given every indication that by the end of the year it may be taking action to penalize those employers with 50 or more full-time or full-time equivalent employees that are not complying with the law.
In response to a member of Congress who inquired if there is a waiver that could be granted to a company that had not complied with the ACA, the IRS made it clear that there is no provision in the ACA that provides a waiver of an employee shared responsibility mandate.
These survey results combined with recent events should wipe away any remaining doubts on the part of employers about the staying power of the ACA. It’s looking more and more like it’s here to stay.