Study Examines ACA Support

Although divisions over the Affordable Care Act persist along party lines, there is widespread public support for the extension and revision of Medicare, according to a recent joint survey conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health and two partner organizations.

Fifty-eight percent of individuals surveyed in the study said they oppose any spending cuts to Medicare, even as 65 percent of respondents said that America needs to tighten its fiscal belt to bring down the deficit.

When asked specifically about proposals to trim the cost of Medicare, 85 percent of people surveyed said they support requiring drug companies to subsidize medication at a lower cost for low-income people. Fifty-nine percent of respondents voiced support for mandating high-income seniors to pay higher premiums for Medicare, which provides health insurance to seniors and people with certain disabilities.

Proposals that would require all seniors to pay higher Medicare premiums and raise the age of Medicare eligibility were both rejected by a majority of surveyed individuals.The survey found greater differences of opinion on the issues of expanding Medicaid—which provides health insurance for the poor and people with certain disabilities—and modifying the Affordable Care Act, the sweeping health care reform law that was passed in 2010.

In total, fifty-two percent of surveyed Americans said they wanted their state to expand its Medicaid program. But while this proposal drew support from 75 percent of Democrats surveyed, it was backed by only 34 percent of Republicans.

And while 52 percent of people surveyed said they thought the Affordable Care Act should be modified to lessen the tax impact on citizens, companies, and health care providers, that proposal drew support primarily from Republicans, who endorsed it by a nearly 4 to 1 ratio.

The survey was conducted by phone by researchers from the School of Public Health, the Kaiser Family Foundation, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

John E. McDonough, a professor of the practice of public health at the School of Public Health who was not involved in conducting the study, said that part of the ideological division over the law stems from differing views on the proper role of government in society. McDonough, who assisted the Senate as a policy adviser during a two-year stint on Capitol Hill when the law was being developed and passed, said he did not believe there was “any agreement” about government-run insurance programs in today’s society.

“Limited government is in the eyes of the beholder,” McDonough said. McDonough said that disagreement over the Affordable Care Act also stems from differences in opinion about the role private insurance companies should play in distributing medical care.

—Staff writer David Freed can be reached at davidfreed@college.harvard.edu.

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