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Following Midterms, Both Democrats and Republicans Expect Washington to Continue to Debate the Affordable Care Act, But the Public Is Splintered Over What Congress Should Do

About Half of Uninsured Expect To Find Coverage in the Coming Months, Though Another Quarter Say They Won’t Because They Do Not Believe They Can Find an Affordable Plan

Following the Nov. 4 midterm elections that saw Republicans seize control of the Senate and expand their House majority, nearly half of Americans (47%) expect increased debate between the two parties over the Affordable Care Act, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s latest tracking poll. In comparison, 42 percent say the amount of debate will not change, and very few (5%) say it will decrease.

Majorities of Democrats (52%) and Republicans (54%) each expect the debate to increase, but Americans’ opinions are all over the map about what Congress should do next: 29 percent of the public supports repealing the law outright, 17 percent supports scaling the law back, 20 percent supports moving ahead with it as is, and 22 percent supports expanding the law.

As always on the ACA, the poll shows deep partisan differences on what’s next for the law. Republicans are more likely to favor repealing the law outright (52%) or scaling back the law (24%), while Democrats are more likely to favor moving ahead with it as is (40%) or expanding it (34%). Independents fall in between, but lean toward repeal or scaling back.

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The poll finds little change in the public’s overall view of the ACA, with 46 percent saying they have an unfavorable view and 37 percent saying they have a favorable view. This also reflects sharp partisan differences, with three quarters (74%) of Republicans reporting an unfavorable view and two thirds (67%) of Democrats reporting a favorable view. Independents fall in the middle, but more tilt negative.

Conducted just prior to Saturday’s start of the ACA’s second open enrollment season, the poll also probes the views of people without health insurance, one of the key target groups for outreach and enrollment efforts.

It finds the uninsured remain largely unaware of the renewed opportunity to purchase or enroll in health insurance through the marketplaces over the next few months. About 9 in 10 (89%) don’t know when open enrollment starts, similar to the share who didn’t know in the October poll.

Even so, about half of the uninsured (49%) say they plan to get coverage during the coming months, and 41 percent say they do not expect to obtain coverage, including about a quarter (24%) of all uninsured who say they do not believe they can find a plan that they can afford.

November_Tracking_Poll_-_Reasons_Uninsured_Expect_To_Get_Coverage_Or_Remain_Uninsured

Still more than eight in 10 of the uninsured (84%) say that it is at least somewhat important to them to have health insurance (including 62% who say it is “very important”). Similarly, seven in 10 say health insurance is something they need; more than twice the share who chose “I’m healthy enough that I don’t really need health insurance.”

Other findings from the poll include:

  • Most of the public says that their families haven’t been directly impacted by the health care law, though more say they have been hurt (24%) than have been helped (16%). Republicans are more likely to say they have been hurt (42%) while Democrats are more likely to say they have been helped (30%). Independents again fall in between, with more saying they have been hurt than helped (22% vs. 12%).
  • Asked to name in their own words the two most important factors in their vote for Congress, the top answer among those who report voting in this month’s midterm election was party loyalty (27%). Somewhat smaller shares named a candidate’s platform or track record (18%), the economy and jobs (17%) and dissatisfaction with government (16%). Fewer still cited health care (9% of voters, including 6% who specifically named the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare).
  • This month’s Health News Index finds nearly eight in 10 Americans say they closely followed coverage of the Ebola outbreak both in the United States and in West Africa, making it the most followed news story this month and one of the most closely followed stories of the year.

METHODOLOGY

The latest tracking poll was designed and analyzed by public opinion researchers at the Kaiser Family Foundation and was conducted from November 5-13, 2014 among a nationally representative random digit dial telephone sample of 1,501 adults ages 18 and older. Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish by landline (751) and cell phone (750). The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points for the full sample and plus or minus 9 percentage points for the uninsured.  For results based on other subgroups, the margin of sampling error may be different.

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.