Is the Affordable Care Act still widely unpopular? Apparently not.
Poll results reported this week by nonpartisan public policy firm PerryUndem Research/Communication show that a majority of likely voters in five key battleground states – Florida, Nevada, Ohio, Virginia and Pennsylvania – believe the Affordable Care Act is here to stay (64%) and want Congress to improve the law, not repeal it (71%).
This result is particularly significant for us in Pennsylvania, as the majority of our state's congressional delegation has staunchly opposed the health care law and continued to push for repeal, despite the gains in coverage, new consumer protections and other benefits that have been brought to their constituents.
Senator Pat Toomey, along with 13 of Pennsylvania's 18 members of the House of Representatives have voted to repeal the law (Representatives Mike Kelly, R-3; Scott Perry, R-4; Glenn Thompson, R-5; Ryan Costello, R-6; Pat Meehan, R-7; Mike Fitzpatrick, R-8; Bill Shuster, R-9; Tom Marino, R-10; Lou Barletta, R-11; Keith Rothfus, R-12; Charlie Dent, R-15; Joe Pitts, R-16; Tim Murphy, R-18).
Voters who responded to the poll described the repeal effort as "frustrating," "unnecessary," and "a waste of time." Some said they were "tired of it" and wished Congress would "stop fighting" and work to fix problems that remain, like the rising cost of prescription drugs, surprise medical bills, and the lack of transparency regarding costs.
The survey, conducted September 15-19, 2015 with adults who voted in 2012 or 2008 and said they were likely to vote in 2016 reveals how public opinion on the landmark health law has shifted. Running on a platform of taking health care away from millions of Americans may no longer be a winning political strategy.
Respondents said they preferred candidates who will work to improve the law over those who would repeal it (55% vs. 40%). Most agreed that elected officials should "stop wasting time" trying to repeal the law (58%) and instead focus on ways to lower the cost and improve the quality of care. The survey also showed strong support across party lines for:
‣ Requiring hospitals and other health care providers to be transparent about their prices so that patients can understand what the cost of services will be before using them (75% strongly support)
‣ Preventing insurance companies from charging high copayments for medications that are necessary for people with cancer and other serious illnesses (70% strongly support)
‣ Changing the way insurance companies pay doctors and hospitals to create incentives to keep people healthy rather than paying providers based on the number of tests and procedures they provide (64% strongly support)
‣ Giving the Medicare program the power to negotiate drug prices with manufacturers (63% strongly support)
‣ Giving state insurance commissioners more authority to push back against insurance companies that want to raise premiums (57% strongly support)
The survey also showed strong support (80%) for Governor Wolf's decision to expand Medicaid to cover more people in Pennsylvania.
These findings reflect what many Pennsylvanians have been saying for some time: Congress should stop wasting time on repeal efforts and start focusing on making our health care system work better for everyone. Fighting the partisan, political battles of five years ago does nothing to solve the problems or address the priorities that Pennsylvanians have today.
We should hope that our elected officials take these poll results to heart and take a leadership role in finding ways to lower people's health care costs, whether that means taking steps to stop balance billing, extending more tax credits for small businesses or preventing insurance companies from increasing co-payments. Efforts like these are what voters now want. The question is: will Congressional opponents of the law in Pennsylvania listen?
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