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HealthCare Checkup

The Seattle Times health-care team tracks the local impact of the Affordable Care Act.

April 29, 2014 at 3:35 PM

Poll: Americans think Obamacare missed its goals, support birth control

Almost half of Americans know how many people signed up for health insurance through government exchanges – some 8 million people nationwide – but 57 percent believe the government failed to meet its enrollment goals. They would be wrong.

The Obama administration aimed to enroll 7 million people in health insurance exchanges during the initial six month signup period, which closed March 31. It beat that goal by 1 million, though not all of the enrollees have paid for their insurance.

In Washington, 164,000 people signed up and paid for health insurance in that time. That number fell short of local benchmarks, though the state exceeded its goals for enlisting new Medicaid participants.

Roughly one-third of respondents thought the insurance exchanges had met or exceeded the government’s goals, according to a poll conducted in mid-April and released Tuesday from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

April poll from Kaiser Family Foundation.

April poll from Kaiser Family Foundation.

Given that most Americans mistakenly think that the enrollment numbers missed their marks, it’s not surprising that  opinions of the Affordable Care Act remain largely unchanged over recent months. The survey found that 46 percent of those responding have an unfavorable view of the health care law, while 38 percent support it.

At the same time, 58 percent of those surveyed prefer keeping the law and working to fix it, over repealing it.

In addition to creating exchanges that sell health insurance plans — often with tax breaks to make them more affordable — the ACA also includes rules to ensure that people cannot be denied coverage because of pre-existing illnesses, requires nearly all Americans to get insurance primarily through private plans or government programs such as Medicare, and defines what sorts of benefits insurance plans must include.

The ACA also requires that private health plans cover prescription birth control without cost-sharing. The U.S. Supreme Court is considering two legal challenges to that provision of the law, and the Kaiser survey queried Americans on the matter.

Some 61 percent of those questioned supported the requirement, and women, Democrats and younger respondents came out most strongly in favor of the rule.

When asked if for-profit companies should have to pay for birth control coverage in their workers’ health plans, even if it violates their owners’ personal religious beliefs, support slipped to 55 percent in favor of the provision.

The Kaiser survey questioned 1,504 adults nationwide. The margin of error for questions of the overall public is plus or minus 3 percentage points.

A separate survey by examined the question of how businesses pay for insurance. The poll asked people if they would pay small surcharges at restaurants and markets to help business owners pay for health insurance for their employees. Bankrate conducted the survey “after several restaurants from an Orlando, Fla., area chain began tacking onto customers’ bills a 1 percent “ACA surcharge,” in a reference to the Affordable Care Act.”

A majority — 52 percent — said they would approve of such a surcharge, while 16 percent disapproved but said they’d continue to patronize the business, and 22 percent said they would disapprove and stop shopping or eating there. The surcharge proposed was 25 cents to every bill.

A Bloomberg News story on the poll delved into the numbers further. The article noted that many respondents who opposed the surcharge by the business also oppose having the government pay for health care. “Which leads to a puzzling question,” wrote Bloomberg’s Christopher Flavelle, “how, exactly, are these people supposed to get insurance?”

Comments | Topics: Affordable Care Act, enrollment, health insurance


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