Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Kaiser ACA Survey and Tangible Benefits

The always-fascinating Kaiser poll about ACA had its latest installment yesterday, and the numbers hinted at a new opportunity for Barack Obama: it’s possible that older Americans could be a potential source of new support for the law in 2012.

First, the topline results, which are nicely summarized by Kevin Drum. There’s not much that’s changed. Overall, more people dislike ACA than like it, but a plurality either support the law or want it strengthened. Only a minority want it repealed, with or without Republican replacement. And almost every individual provision of the law remains popular, with the biggest exception being the individual mandate. Interestingly, most ACA opponents say that their opposition is based on a general dislike of “the direction of the country and what’s going on in Washington right now” rather than anything specific about the law – which is surprising to me, because my impression is that it’s rare for people to admit to such influences on their opinions.
It’s also the case that people don’t actually know what’s in the law. Here’s where we get to the hint about seniors. Kaiser has been tracking, among other things, whether people believe that certain provisions are part of ACA. In most cases, knowledge has been deteriorating over time – for example, 71% of respondents knew that the individual mandate was in the law in April 2010, but only 62% knew that now; 64% used to know about expanding Medicaid, down to 53% now.

That’s reversed, however, in two areas. Slightly more people (51% to 49%) know now that ACA will eliminate the “donut hole” on Medicare prescription medication. And more also know about eliminating co-pays and deductibles for preventative care (36% to 29%, although in this case the “before” was just a few months ago instead of last year). Notably, the first of these is a pure Medicare issue, and the other has been a Medicare issue so far.

My guess is that what’s happening here is that seniors have a strong interest in knowing about what’s actually happening to Medicare, as well as good resources to let them know. Moreover, these are both tangible benefits that will be fairly easy to directly connect to ACA, unlike something like preventing rescissions, which was critically important but something very people knew about until it happened to them, so eliminating it is invisible. It's also worth noting that, while increasing, the awareness of this stuff is still low, although presumably it's much higher among Medicare recipients; alas, no crosstabs on this in the detailed release. It sure seems to me that all of this sounds like a real opportunity for the Obama campaign as it targets swing-voting seniors next year.

The bad news for Obama, however, is that as anticipated people are going to blame anything they are dissatisfied about in health care and health insurance on ACA, and therefore on Obama, while generally not being very aware of the benefits. I do expect that to continue, and since costs will likely be going up and since people are still going to not like their insurance companies, there's a built-in difficulty with gaining support. Again, that's partially because the benefits are being implemented slowly, but in large part it's because of the nature of the benefits. After all, there is precisely no one who is going to be cheering if their premiums go up less than they would have otherwise, even if that's exactly what happens. So even if everything works exactly as Obama and Waxman and the rest of them hoped, it's gonna be a tough sell. (Although then again a lot of this, as Kaiser found, is more a reflection of what people think of Obama in general; if unemployment was at 5% and Obama at 55%, ACA would be a lot more popular).

Anyway: I have no idea how large the chunk is of seniors who are swing voters, but I do suspect they are the group mostly likely to be successfully targeted on health care by the Democrats.


  1. Goodness... so tax hikes are popular, and now so is ObamaCare?

    Who knew?

    Looks like the Left is headed for another shellacking in '12. ;-)

  2. "So even if everything works exactly as Obama and Waxman and the rest of them hoped..."


    What does it matter what Obama and Waxman ever "hoped". ObamaCare was Baucus' bill, slapped down in place of anything Obama and Waxman ever "hoped", voted through the Senate, and then begrudgingly voted through the House in complete denial of any of Waxman's and Obama's "hopes". Perhaps it's time for the Left to start embracing that reality, and the failed governance that it embodies, which is much the reason why ObamaCare is so derided today.

    Process does count, you know. Obama's gettin' crushed because of failed process as much as failed policy here.

    If the Left had followed coherent process, they wouldn't have to lug around this millstone, or it'd be far less a burden.

  3. I've sort of given up responding to Anon, but just for the record: he or she has no idea what he's talking about re: Waxman, Baucus, Obama, and procedure. And indeed, on the first message, it's easy to see why...there are clearly some serious reading comprehension issues.

  4. Of course I understand the procedure that occurred here, same as everybody else who paid attention. But you're more than welcome to support your unsupported assertion.

    As for my assertion, it's much more than an assertion, as we can easily document the Waxman bill that was completely deleted, as Baucus' bill was substituted for it in the Senate.

    As I say, deficient process coupled with bad policy often leads to horrible politics. That's what we're seeing with ObamaCare. That's the Left's millstone, now. It really is long past time for the Left to embrace these failures, of policy, politics AND process. It's electorally killing them that they're not.

  5. JB: When you respond to Anon in this "every once in a great while" fashion, you're rewarding him with your attention on what B.F. Skinner described as a variable ratio reinforcement schedule (the "slot machine" schedule). Research shows that that's the hardest sort of reinforcement schedule to extinguish. If you just stop responding to his many inaccuracies cold turkey, or respond to every comment he makes for awhile and then stop responding cold turkey, there's a better chance he'll go away. Yes, probably even if he reads this.

  6. You're wasting your time, Psycho. Mr. Bernstein is a fiercely partisan lefty ideologue, and those types are incapable of ignoring criticism of their own.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Who links to my website?