Since the landmark Affordable Care Act (ACA), known as Obamacare, was enacted in 2010, many Congressional Republican members have vowed to repeal and replace the program. Under President Trump’s administration, Congress is now debating the American Health Care Act (AHCA), the House Republicans’ bill to “repeal and replace” the existing system.
According to a new poll by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, Illinois voters are divided on whether or not to repeal and replace the existing health care system. The poll, conducted Saturday, March 4 through Saturday, March 11, 2017, asked whether respondents agreed to repeal and or replace the current health care system. The sample included 1,000 registered voters in Illinois with a margin for error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points. Sixty percent of the interviews were conducted on cell phones.
Overall, when asked the question “Do you think Congress should vote to repeal the 2010 health care law, or should they not vote to repeal it?,” responses were varied. Just over one-third of those asked supported repeal (35 percent), half were in favor of retaining the current ACA (50 percent), and 15 percent had no opinion. Within the 35 percent (N = 353) who supported a repeal, 29 percent wanted Congress to vote to repeal the legislation immediately, 68 percent supported repeal once an alternative was in place, and 3 percent either didn’t know or refused to answer.
Voters in Chicago were the most supportive (60 percent) of the ACA, with those in suburban Chicago and the Collar Counties the second most supportive (52 percent); and the lowest levels of support (39 percent) were in the Downstate areas of Illinois. Chicago residents were only 25 percent in support of repealing the law, while 34 percent of suburban residents and 44 percent of Downstate residents responded yes to repealing. The disparity was even more marked among those identifying with a specific political party. Only 13 percent of Democrats supported repealing the ACA; 31 percent of Independents and 66 percent of Republicans supported repeal.
“The ultimate future of Obamacare, while unpopular with many people, has dramatic implications for the state of Illinois, “said Linda Baker, university professor at the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute. “As a state that added more than 650,000 people to its Medicaid program through the ACA, if the Act is repealed and the state is expected to assume costs currently being borne by the federal government for those recipients, there will be enormous consequences for the state and for those who may lose coverage.”
The current health care reform debate is occurring at a time when Illinois legislators have the Herculean task of solving an increasing structural deficit in the midst of almost a two-year budget stalemate. With Republican Governor Bruce Rauner and Democrat leadership in the General Assembly at odds with how to deal with that deficit and ultimately enact a budget, respondents to the Paul Simon Institute survey were also asked how the budget stalemate was impacting their lives.
Respondents were also asked, “Have you or someone in your immediate family been affected by the Illinois budget stalemate” 33 percent said it had affected them, with 62 percent responding that it had not. Of those affected by the budget crisis, the largest groups of respondents argued that it had resulted in K-12 funding cuts, job loss and cuts to needed social services. Finally, the respondents were asked if families living in poverty are more or less affected by the impasse. Over half (56 percent) said families in poverty had been more impacted, with 22 percent saying that families in poverty had been impacted less and another 22 percent saying they did not know.
Realizing there is a divide in the nation’s ideology on poverty, manifested in the debate on affordable and accessible health care coverage, the Paul Simon Institute also asked the same 1,000 Illinois voters about their opinions on causes of poverty. When asked “Thinking about the causes of poverty in your area, please tell me one major reason that people are poor,” a plurality (41.4 percent) of respondents blamed the government. About one-fourth (23.3 percent) blamed social or cultural factors, and 16 percent viewed a lack of employment as the cause. The remaining respondents placed blamed on medical factors (10.4 percent), educational factors (2.5 percent), and other factors (6.3 percent).
Asking for a secondary cause of poverty, respondents cited, in descending order, employment, social/cultural, education, government, medical and other. About 27 percent of respondents indicated employment as the secondary cause of poverty; 15.1 percent social/cultural factors as the secondary factor; 13.2 percent as education or relative lack of it; 12.5 percent government; 7.1 percent medical issues; and 24.9 percent with some other secondary cause.
In both the initial and secondary questions, there were subcategories associated with the key causes. Under the cause of employment, job shortages and wage levels were the primary causes listed. There was no singularly significant factor mentioned in the social/cultural category, while in the education category, the poor quality of public schools was cited as the most significant factor.
The survey next asked respondents what types of government interventions would best alleviate poverty. Respondents offered a variety of answers, in the topical areas of employment, education, social services, and social/cultural. As with prior questions, each response had several subcategories. With respect to the area of employment, the most significant responses were in support of government intervention to create jobs/prevent outsourcing and to increase funding for jobs programs, at 8.8 percent and 8 percent, respectively. Under the heading of education, the two most significant responses were at 13.9 percent for increased funding for job training programs and 12.8 percent in favor of improving the quality of education.
The survey next asked if respondents would be willing to pay more in taxes for poverty alleviation measures. Slightly over 59 percent said they would be in support, with 35 percent opposed with 6% undecided.