Study: More approve of ACA's effects, but political divisions skew overall opinions

Though the Affordable Care Act has helped 20 million adults gain health insurance and Americans increasingly have positive views of its tangible effects, public opinion about the law remains deeply divided due to party affiliation and distrust in the government, according to a new study from Health Affairs.

According to the study, 45.6 percent of people found the ACA unfavorable in 2014 and 36.2 percent found it favorable. But respondents who felt as though the law had little or no impact on access to insurance diminished by 18 percent between 2010 and 2014, and 19 percent more believed that reform has had some or a great impact.

From 2010 to 2014, Americans also increasingly credited health reform with delivering tangible benefits to themselves and their families. These include expanding access to healthcare, requiring insurers to cover adult children on their parents' plans until they are 26 years old and helping seniors pay for prescription drugs, the report says.

So, if more people believe that the law is having positive effects, why do 72 percent still want the ACA repealed? The study points to a "toxic political atmosphere" and mistrust of government, which has been displayed by repeated attempts by some lawmakers to repeal the ACA. However, the report points adds, the gradual increase in Medicaid expansion shows the slow acceptance of the ACA, even in more conservative states.

The study concludes by saying that much of the public's view on health reform comes from the juxtaposition between appreciating the positive effects of the law and being torn by their political party's deep reservations, and it doesn't appear that these polarities are going away any time soon.

"Unless there is a profound turnover in Washington that puts power in the hands of one party alone, the most likely scenario for public opinion in the near term is a locking in of the dueling evaluations of the ACA," the study says.

To learn more:
- read the Health Affairs study