by Max Brantley
CHICAGO – A new poll released by the American Medical Association (AMA) shows that Arkansas voters have a low opinion of the House-passed health system reform bill and are strongly opposed to numerous provisions of the health system reform bill currently being considered by the Senate. The poll also shows strong support for Medicaid and overwhelming opposition to reducing spending on the program – as the House and Senate bills would do.
While the House and Senate bills target the growth of Medicaid, respondents overwhelmingly view the program favorably (55 percent) or neutral (22 percent). Only 14 percent of voters view it unfavorably. Additionally, although both the House and Senate health reform bills would roll back Medicaid expansion and cut Medicaid spending, 38 percent of respondents want to increase Medicaid funding in Arkansas, 43 percent want it to remain unchanged, and only 12 percent want it decreased.
Reflecting the wide range of Americans covered by Medicaid and the large role it plays in insuring the sick, elderly and children, 69 percent of respondents said either they themselves, someone in their household or someone they know is covered by Medicaid.
“If either of the health reform bills in Congress were to become law, not only would millions of Americans lose their insurance coverage, but millions more would have higher – perhaps unaffordable – deductibles and copayments that will discourage them from seeking the care they need,” said AMA President David O. Barbe, M.D. “This poll of Arkansans shows that the proposed Medicaid cuts hit home, and imperil access to care. Both the Senate and House bills as currently drafted violate the important principle ‘first, do no harm.’ It is clear that changes are needed to our health system and that a bipartisan approach is necessary to achieve those results. Arkansas voters agree that the proposals currently before Congress are a massive step in the wrong direction.”
Below are additional findings regarding provisions of health system reform proposals:
Respondents overwhelmingly support (79 percent) allowing insurance to be bought across state lines;
Voters are divided on eliminating the ACA requirement that all health plans sold must provide a standard set of government-established benefits, including mental health services, addiction treatment, maternity care, and that provides preventive health services with no out-of-pocket costs. Forty-five percent of respondents support eliminating this change, while 41 percent oppose doing so.
Arkansans strongly oppose (52 percent to 40 percent) a change to the ACA that would allow insurance companies to charge consumers higher rates if they have pre-existing conditions and allowed their coverage to lapse.
Forty-two percent of respondents oppose eliminating the money that the federal government pays to health insurance companies to provide lower deductibles and lower out-of-pocket health care costs for low-income people. The poll shows that 41 percent support it.
The poll shows voters are divided in their views of the ACA, with 44 percent believing it is a bad idea and 38 percent calling it a good idea. By comparison, 40 percent of respondents think the House bill is a bad idea, only 26 percent say it’s a good idea, and 30 percent do not have an opinion. A majority of Arkansas voters (55 percent) want the Senate to either make major changes to the House bill before passing it (26 percent) or think the Senate should not pass any part of the House legislation (29 percent).
Yesterday, the AMA expressed its opposition to the Senate’s proposed health care bill based on its health system reform objectives – primary among them that people who currently have insurance, including Medicaid coverage, should not become uninsured.
Public Opinion Strategies conducted the statewide telephone survey of 400 registered voters. The sample was drawn from the voter file proportional to the statewide registered voter population. The survey was conducted June 15-20, and has a margin of error of +4.9 percent. Complete interview schedules are available here.