Americans support Medicaid expansion

Americans favor the idea of extending health coverage to the country's low-income through the government’s Medicaid program, a key part of health reform, but still aren’t sure on the law in its entirety.

A poll released Tuesday by the Kaiser Family Foundation found 67 percent of Americans support Medicaid expansion while 30 percent oppose it. Medicaid has become a popular discussion as it played a big role in the health reform debate.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act—upheld by the Supreme Court June 28—would expand Medicaid to cover people with incomes of up to 133 percent of the poverty line. The court ruled that states have the ability to opt out of Medicaid expansion, which several Republican governors have vowed to do.

[See Five states resisting reform]

Public support for Medicaid dropped to 49 percent when asked if respondents would like to see the program expanded in their own state. When expansion supporters were told that it would require their state to spend more money on Medicaid, a narrow overall majority, at 52 percent, preferred staying with their state’s status quo.

As with most PPACA-related controversies, the public splits sharply along partisan lines on whether their state should undertake the expansion, with 75 percent of Democrats favoring it and 66 percent of Republicans opposed.  Independents are more evenly divided with 46 percent backing a Medicaid expansion in their state and 47 percent favoring the status quo.

Overall, Medicaid is valued by the public. About half (52 percent) think Medicaid is important to their family, including 69 percent of those in low-income households.  And eight in ten Americans say they would enroll in the program if they were uninsured, needed health care and qualified.

Americans remain roughly divided on the PPACA, with unfavorable views of the law in July slightly outweighing favorable views, 44 percent to 38 percent this month. The law’s opponents are much more likely than its proponents to say their minds are firmly made up on the law (69 percent versus 47 percent).

[Who's saying what about reform?]

When it comes to next steps, the share of Americans who favor repeal of the law (46 percent) matched the share this month who would like to keep the law or expand it (45 percent). 

Unfavorable views of the PPACA may be in part because of this confusion: The poll finds that one in five people expect to have to pay a penalty in 2014, while experts estimate that a considerably smaller share of the public actually will have to pay, since most people already have coverage through their employer or will obtain other coverage. 

The survey was conducted July 17-23 among 1,227 adults in the United States.


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