Washington Post Analysis
Another day, another poll showing how deeply unpopular the GOP health-care bill is
By Philip Bump June 22, 2017
The day that Republican members of the House were first supposed to vote on the American Health Care Act, the legislation that would overhaul the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare) by cutting taxes on wealthy Americans and reducing spending on Medicaid, Quinnipiac University dropped a big, juicy fly in the ointment.
Only 17 percent of the country approved of the bill, a poll from the university showed — including less than half of Republicans.
Over time, those numbers haven’t really improved. Earlier this month, the most recent Quinnipiac poll showed the same figure: 17 percent approval. Support from Republicans, which had come oh so close to 50 percent in late May, was back down to about 4 in 10.
On Thursday, Senate Republicans introduced their own bill, the Better Care Reconciliation Act. It was crafted behind closed doors, and there’s no polling available on Americans’ views of it. But at noon on the day it dropped, so, too, did a new poll from NBC News and the Wall Street Journal.
Only 16 percent of Americans said the House bill was a good idea — including only a third of Republicans. That’s down 7 percent from last month.
It’s hard to overstate what a disaster those numbers are for the Senate Republicans. The best possible defense — and the defense that appears to have motivated the manner in which the bill was drafted — is that this is a poll number on a different piece of legislation. This is probably what Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) et al. are hoping will happen: They say, “Hey, this is the BCRA, not the AHCA, not sure how you made that mistake,” and then rush the bill to a vote before people realize how similar the two pieces of legislation are.
And they are similar, in the places that will affect the most people. A Washington Post analysis shows that the big-picture effect is to cut certain taxes (that mostly benefit the wealthiest Americans) and to cut Medicaid benefits (that heavily benefit the poor and disabled) with the likely net effect of substantially increasing the number of Americans who don’t have insurance. It won’t take much time for the similarities between the two bills to be made obvious, and therefore, for this bill to similarly fare poorly in the polls.
The Kaiser Family Foundation polled on the elements of the AHCA (that’s the House bill; these acronyms are confusing) a month ago. Even among Republican voters, most of the components were pretty unpopular.
The work requirement is in the Senate bill, in a form, and that’s popular with most Republicans, as are the high-risk pools. But so are the Medicaid cuts, the tax reductions — and the least popular provision, charging more for older customers.
Again: This is among Republicans. Is this a recipe for a more popular piece of legislation?
Republican senators are being asked to stand with party leadership on this bill to meet the Republican commitment to repeal Obamacare. That commitment powered a lot of grass-roots energy within the Republican base — but while that’s enough to ensure victory for some members of the party’s caucus, others need an awful lot of votes from independents (and even some Democrats) for whom that commitment was never appealing.
Shortly after Obamacare passed in 2010, the Kaiser Family Foundation found that it was more popular than not, although still had less than 50 percent approval. By that November, polling was about even — but the Democrats were demolished in House elections in part (but by no means solely) because of the party’s efforts to reform health care. Some Democrats took a tough vote for Obamacare — and lost their jobs.
On a bill that was about as popular as it was unpopular.
What’s the case McConnell makes to Republicans from moderate states who are up for reelection next year on voting for his unpopular bill?