How Obamacare defined the shutdown debate

October 21, 2013, 1:18 PM GMT+0

Most Americans would have rather seen their side win the health care reform law fight than end the shutdown, while most uninsured say they are uninsured because they can't afford it.

Given the choice, Americans in the latest Economist/YouGov Poll would have rather seen their position on the Affordable Care Act be adopted than to have ended the government shutdown that actually ended last night, underscoring how Obamacare is defining this Presidency and this government funding debate. There is more opposition than support of the health care law (Americans prefer that it be stopped), and what happens to the health care law overall seems to matter more than ending the shutdown. In light of these levels of support for stopping Obamacare instead of stopping the shutdown, it is unclear what political price - if any - will be paid by the Republican Congressional leadership who enabled the shutdown to end without amending or delaying the health care reform law.

There has been a lot of confusion about what the Affordable Care Act really means, with many Americans thinking it contains measures that are not in the bill, like requiring end of life discussions and health care for illegal immigrants. And the public division by party identification mirror those seen in Congress, with Democrats overwhelmingly supporting the law, and Republicans even more overwhelmingly opposed.

Just over one in four Americans in this poll (26%) say they do not have health insurance, and it is clear that the reasons most don’t involve cost and availability – not a lack of interest or perceived need. Nearly two in three without health insurance say it’s because insurance is “too expensive.”

Another 22% say they lost health insurance along with their job, or were refused coverage. Only 11% claim they are healthy and just don’t need coverage.

Most Americans know someone without insurance: 73% say they are not covered or know someone without health insurance. About a third know someone who has been denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition.

Those 65 and older are almost all covered by Medicare, and the coverage problem is especially severe among those under 30 (35% of whom lack coverage). Half the Hispanics in this poll and 41% of those with incomes under $40,000 a year say they lack coverage. Just about eight in ten Republicans and Democrats are covered – while a third of those who identify as political independents are not.

About one in four of those without coverage say they have tried to use either the federal or a state-run health exchange website.

Throughout the health care debate, Americans have been worried about what the expansion of health care coverage means. Most Americans have never thought that their care would improve under the plan, and most have expected increased costs. That is not just a concern of those with coverage, but also of those currently without it. Majorities in both groups are very concerned their health care costs will increase; both groups are more likely to say their health care will be worse that think it will be better.

So it may not come as a surprise that a third of those without health insurance want to repeal the program; the same percentage want it kept or expanded.

Image: Getty

Full results can be found here.

Economist/YouGov poll archives can be found here.

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