Public reaction, shifting political division responsible for ACA replacement defeat

The survey found divisions between Republicans and Democrats, and deeper divisions among Republicans, on the future of the Affordable Care Act were responsible for the failure of efforts to repeal and replace the law.
By Amy Wallace  |  Aug. 17, 2017 at 1:12 PM
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Aug. 17 (UPI) -- A new analysis suggests deep division within the Republican Party, between GOP and Democrats, and among the public prevented the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

On July 28, the U.S. Senate closed debate on repealing and replacing the ACA without passing legislation to repeal and replace the healthcare law. The Senate had also rejected the U.S. House of Representatives' replacement bill passed earlier.

The new analysis, published Aug. 16 in the New England Journal of Medicine, consisted of researchers reviewing 27 national opinion polls by 12 survey organizations on the health insurance debate.

The analysis focused four issues of the healthcare debate: Favorability of the current ACA law, public views underlying the debate, support for various Republican-initiated health policy changes proposed, and overall support for the Republican proposals debated in the House and Senate.

An average of the polls showed that as of June and July 2017, more people approved of the ACA than disapproved -- 49 percent to 44 percent. The average shows approval of the ACA by the public increased 5 percentage points between 2012 and 2017.

The Republican view that the law has hurt Americans and Democratic view that the law needs to be maintained because it helps Americans did not reflect the point of view of the general public as a whole, the survey findings suggest.

The polls showed that, on average, more people reported being helped by the ACA -- 24 percent -- than the 16 percent of people who report being hurt by it. However, 58 percent of the public as a whole -- 60 percent of Republicans and 60 percent of Democrats -- reported the law had no direct effect on their lives.

Roughly 60 percent of respondents said it should be the responsibility of the federal government to ensure that all Americans have healthcare coverage. About 85 percent of Democrats believed the federal government should ensure healthcare for all, while just 30 percent of Republicans agreed.

The number of people who feel it is the federal government's responsibility to ensure healthcare coverage for all increased from 42 percent in 2013 to the 60 percent who said so in June 2013.

"When confronted with millions losing coverage, the public became more supportive of the principle that the federal government should ensure coverage for these people," Robert J. Blendon, a professor of Health Policy and Political Analysis at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said in a press release. "This substantial change likely impacted the outcome of the Senate debate."

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