ACA’s popularity grows, even as Trump, Republicans laud change to individual coverage mandate

Health insurance, pen and stethoscope
More than half of Americans favor the Affordable Care Act, its highest point since the Kaiser Family Foundation began its monthly survey in 2010. (Getty/Minerva Studio)

Despite President Donald Trump’s boast that “we have essentially repealed Obamacare,” a new poll shows the Affordable Care Act is more popular than ever. In fact, many people don’t even know Congress repealed the ACA’s penalty for not having insurance.

RELATED: Special Report—8 ways to fix the Affordable Care Act

The Kaiser Family Foundation poll found 54% of Americans had a favorable view of the 2010 health law that expanded health coverage to millions. That was up four points from January and its highest point since the monthly survey began in 2010. (KHN is an editorially independent program of the foundation.)

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The survey found 40% of respondents were unaware that Congress in January repealed the individual mandate penalty as part of the federal tax overhaul. It takes effect in 2019. About one in five people were aware of the repeal but believed incorrectly that it had taken effect this year.

Only 13% of respondents were aware that both the requirement to buy insurance was repealed and that it remains in effect for 2018.

RELATED: Most Americans support the right to affordable healthcare, but remain pessimistic about ACA's future

The public’s lack of knowledge about the individual mandate likely reflects the fact that few people are affected by it. The majority of Americans have health coverage or are exempt from the mandate because their income is too low, said Ashley Kirzinger, a Kaiser polling expert.

“Confusion over the status of the ACA’s individual mandate stems from a lot of different things, but health care policy is complicated and the public generally doesn’t pay attention to details of health policy until it directly impacts them,” she said.

RELATED: 20 states sue to eliminate the ACA, citing provisions of the new tax law

The poll showed the public is also split on what’s motivating states to add a work requirement to Medicaid.

About 41% of those surveyed said states were looking to lower government spending while 33% believed states were enacting the new requirements to “lift people out of poverty.”

The Trump administration in February approved requests from Indiana and Kentucky to require some non-disabled adults to work as a condition of having Medicaid coverage. At least eight more states are waiting for a green light.

About two-thirds of Americans said states should not put time limits on how long people can be enrolled in Medicaid as long as they qualify, the poll found. Support for lifetime caps was stronger among Republicans (51%) than Democrats (16%).

A Kaiser poll from June 2017 found that 70% of Americans support states imposing work requirements on non-disabled Medicaid adults.

The latest Kaiser poll of 1,193 adults was conducted Feb. 15 – 20 and has a margin of error of +/- 3 percentage points.

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