Mixed Views on Affordable Care Act; Numbers on Healthcare.gov Sign Up
By Max Mescall, Ian McGeown, and Liz Kantor
Max Mescall is a research intern at the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling and a junior at Rutgers University. Ian McGeown is an Aresty Undergraduate Research Assistant with the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling and is a sophomore at Rutgers University. Liz Kantor is an Aresty Undergraduate Research Assistant with the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling and a School of Arts and Sciences Honors Program sophomore at Rutgers University.
It would be hard to find someone living in the United States that has not heard the term “Obamacare” thrown around in the media in the past few years. After much debate and discussion, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is finally starting to take effect as Americans can now make decisions about what kind of healthcare coverage to select, either through HealthCare.gov or their own state-based marketplace where applicable.
Our latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll shows that New Jerseyans have somewhat mixed views on the Affordable Care Act. A majority at least somewhat supports the ACA, pretty evenly split between 26 percent somewhat supporting and 28 percent strongly supporting the law. But those who do not like the ACA are more likely to express strong than middling opposition: 28 percent strongly oppose, while 12 percent are somewhat opposed.
Unsurprisingly there is a clear partisan divide: 44 percent of Democrats give strong support, compared to just 20 percent of independents and 5 percent of Republicans. While an overwhelming majority of Democrats support the law at some level, just under half of independents feel the same while 8 in 10 Republicans are at least somewhat opposed.
Since most NJ residents have health insurance already either through their work (47 percent) or through Medicare (13 percent) or Medicaid (3 percent), as of mid-January relatively few had actually used Healthcare.gov to try to purchase a new health insurance policy. Just 14 percent reported attempts to use the site, not surprising since the vast majority of New Jerseyans already had insurance through other sources.
Among those who attempted to use the site, about two-thirds say they actually obtained insurance from it. Among this small number of respondents (less than 10 percent of the full sample), 25 percent find that it was less expensive than their prior insurance, just slightly fewer (22 percent) say it was more expensive, and around the same number (23 percent) say it was about the same cost. Nine percent are not sure. Another 21 percent who successfully signed up could not compare to previous insurance rates because they did not have insurance before purchasing through the exchange.
Overall, a large majority says the ACA has had little effect on them and their families so far. Just over two-thirds (67 percent) of New Jerseyans say the ACA has had little effect, while 11 percent say it has helped their families, and 17 percent say it has done more harm than good. But this sentiment is again divided across partisan lines: Republicans are approximately five times more likely than Democrats to say the law has hurt them (34 percent versus 7 percent), though the majority within each party sees little effect yet.
In the end, of course, most New Jerseyans, as with most people nationwide, are already covered by insurance before Obamacare, so for most, the insurance exchanges don’t really make any difference. At the same time, it seems clear that New Jerseyans are not focused on benefits of the program beyond the exchanges – including keeping children on parent’s policies to age 26, elimination of lifetime caps, and removal of pre-existing limitations. That seems to be the only way to explain why few New Jersey respondents say they have seen any benefits in the new law.
In general, Obama’s job grade is still high in the “blue” state of New Jersey, with 60 percent feeling favorably toward the president – though this positivity is driven mostly by the 88 percent of Democrats who feel this way. About half of independents and only 14 percent of Republicans feel the same. Predictably, Obama’s favorability has a strong relationship to opinions on the Affordable Care Act. Favorable impressions steadily increase and negative impressions correspondingly decrease with each successive level of support for the health care law. In turn, those more favorable toward Obama are more likely to support the law, and those who are more unfavorable are more likely to oppose it. Obama’s job grade follows similar patterns.
Results are from a statewide poll of 826 New Jersey adults with a margin of error of +/- 3.4 percentage points, contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from Jan 14 – 19.