Health reform losing support, especially among Republicans and independents

They may be responding to the increasingly partisan atmosphere before the midterm elections, a Kaiser Family Foundation official says.

By Doug Trapp — Posted Sept. 14, 2010

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Americans' confidence in being able to buy and access health care hasn't changed much in the last year, but their opinion of the national health reform law has fluctuated, mostly among Republicans and independents.

Overall, 45% of those surveyed in the August Kaiser Health Tracking Poll opposed the health law. That's 10 percentage points higher than those who said they opposed the law in July. Correspondingly, support for the law dipped to 43%, down from half of those surveyed in July.

The dip in popularity was driven in part by Republicans, who were much more likely than Democrats to have a negative view of the health reform law. Among those surveyed, 77% of Republicans opposed the law and 68% of Democrats favored it. Independents were divided, with 48% opposing the law and 41% favoring it.

Republicans and independents may be responding to the increasingly partisan atmosphere in the months before the November elections, said Claudia Deane, associate director for public opinion and survey research for the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Deane said the health reform law's coverage expansions and consumer protections continue to be popular, even among those who don't like the law. However, the law's requirement to have health insurance has "never been popular and certainly not getting more so over time."

At the same time, Americans have maintained steady confidence in being able to afford and get health care during the last 12 months, according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Health Care Consumer Confidence Index for July. The monthly index measures consumers' belief in their ability to access health care, health insurance and their future concerns regarding health care. The index, which has a starting measurement of 100, hasn't fluctuated more than five points from 100 in the past 12 months -- meaning there have been only slight gains and losses in confidence., a compilation of national polls, has found that public opinion on the national health reform law has remained fairly steady since early summer, with nearly 48% opposing the law and 42% supporting it.

The health reform law probably won't be the deciding issue for voters in November, according to the August Kaiser poll. The results showed health care is only the third most influential issue voters named for the November elections, trailing the economy and dissatisfaction with government. Deane noted that anger about the health reform law seems to be wrapped up in a general anger about a variety of issues.

However, most Americans view the health reform debate cynically, according to the August Kaiser poll. Nearly 70% of respondents see politicians' disagreements about health reform as "political gamesmanship," and 25% said they represent "fundamental policy differences." Deane said this is "one of the few opinions that's held on a bipartisan basis."

The August Kaiser poll, conducted from Aug. 16 to 22, included more than 1,000 likely voters and is available online (link).

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation survey, based on responses from 500 households, also is available online (link).

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