Obamacare’s Newfound Popularity Could Prove Fleeting

Recent polling indicates that “Support for Obamacare [is] at [an] all-time high,” as a recent headline put it. But there’s a catch.

The healthcare law’s popularity depends on how the polls are worded. That’s not surprising — few people fully understand what Obamacare actually does. Once they learn, support plummets.

Take “community rating,” the provision in Obamacare that, among other things, forbids insurers from charging the sick more than the healthy — and only allows them to charge the old three times more than the young.

In reality, older people cost about five times more to insure. By capping older people’s premiums, Obamacare shifts costs onto younger enrollees and forces them to pay artificially-high premiums.

People like the idea of limiting costs for older people. In a recent Cato Institute/YouGov survey, 63 percent of people supported the community rating provision and 33 percent opposed it.

But when that survey asked whether respondents still supported the provision if it raised insurance premiums for everyone else — which it surely does — and support nearly flipped. About 55 percent opposed community rating.

Support also turned negative when respondents were asked if they supported community rating knowing it raised taxes or reduced the quality of healthcare. (Spoiler alert: Community rating does both.)

Fortunately, congressional Republicans are trying to address this problem. The latest iteration of their Obamacare replacement bill allows insurers to charge older people up to five times more than what they charge younger customers. It also grants older people larger tax credits for purchasing coverage — those in their 20s get $2,000 a year, while those in their 60s get $4,000 a year.

The GOP’s replacement bill isn’t perfect. But its reform of age rating is a step in the right direction and would help make insurance more affordable for millions of young people.

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.

Scroll to Top