Californians Fear Losing Coverage In Obamacare Reform

As the Republican-led U.S. Senate prepares to vote — possibly by next week — to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, a new poll shows that 56 percent of Californians worry that they or someone in their family will lose health insurance coverage if the law, commonly called Obamacare, is dismantled.

The poll, by UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies, comes at a time when a record number of Golden State residents — 65 percent — now support the Affordable Care Act, said Mark DiCamillo, who directs the Berkeley IGS poll.

“The breadth of the people who are worried about losing their coverage is quite revealing,’’ said DiCamillo. “It says that even people who are not directly affected by the ACA — for example, people covered through Medicare or other types of coverage — are fearful that somehow their coverage might be’’ impacted.

The 56 percent of respondents concerned about losing coverage includes 39 percent who are “very worried” about the impact of an Obamacare repeal, and 17 percent “somewhat worried.” Concern about losing health coverage varies with household income, with those at the lowest end of the income scale most concerned. Residents of urban areas tend to be more worried than those in rural areas.

But some of the most telling differences come among ethnic groups. More than seven in 10 of the state’s Latinos — or 71 percent — are personally worried about health care reform, as are 67 percent of African-Americans. That compares to just 46 percent of white non-Hispanics and 50 percent of Asian Americans.

“The repeal of the ACA has the potential to impact people who get their insurance in a wide range of ways,’’ said Amy Adams, a senior program officer at the Oakland-based California Health Care Foundation.

“It would completely de-stabilize the Covered California individual market, and there are also policies being proposed that would reduce protections for people in employee-sponsored coverage,’’ she said. That includes re-instituting annual out of pocket limits and annual and lifetime limits.

But Sally Pipes, president and CEO of the San Francisco-based Pacific Research Institute, a nonprofit that promotes limited government, said the heightened concerns can probably be attributed to “fear of the unknown — people are uncertain about what the repeal-and-replace plan will look like,’’ she said.

The House has already passed an Obamacare repeal, and Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, says that there will be a Senate vote by July 4. But GOP senators are still arguing over key details, and it is unclear where their closed-door negotiations will lead.

The IGS poll shows that overall views of Obamacare in California remain highly partisan, with Democrats overwhelmingly supportive — 88 percent compared to nine percent. But fewer than one in four Republicans — 22 percent compared to 69 percent — favor the current law.

But interestingly, support for the government-funded Medi-Cal program — a linchpin of the expanded care provided by the Affordable Care Act — is strong among all political persuasions.

An overwhelming majority of Californians — 88 percent — describe Medi-Cal as important. And among Republicans the poll shows 75 percent consider the program important to the state.

Since the Affordable Care Act law kicked into gear in 2014, about 4 million Golden State residents signed up under a provision of the law that expanded Medi-Cal to adults without dependent children. That’s in addition to about 10 million enrolled in traditional Medi-Cal, meaning the program now covers roughly one-third of the state.

“It’s a program that has broadened our over the years and has become a huge part of the state’s health care system and affects a lot of people,’’ said DiCamillo.

The American Health Care Act, the Republican-majority House of Representatives Obamacare replacement passed on May 4, phases out enhanced funding for the Medi-Cal expansion population and changes funding for the entire program to a block grant or per capita caps.

The Berkeley poll surveyed 1,628 California adults by phone from May 4 to 31. The California Health Care Foundation requested an oversampling of residents in the Central Valley, including residents of the San Joaquin Valley and the Sacramento/North Valley, yielding a total of 1,845 interviews.

The margin of error is plus/minus 2.4 percentage points. The poll was conducted on behalf of the California Health Care Foundation, a non-profit Oakland-based foundation that researches health care issues.

Nothing contained in this blog is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Pacific Research Institute or as an attempt to thwart or aid the passage of any legislation.

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