Poll examines public opinion about “Super Committee”

Friday, September 23, 2011

Key Findings From The Kaiser Family Foundation’s September Health Tracking Poll

This month’s poll examines public opinion about the “super committee” and explores the views and experience of individuals who have pre-existing health conditions, in addition to continuing tracking opinion about the health reform law.

*    Most Americans express doubt that the congressional super committee can find the right solutions for dealing with the country’s finances.  More than six in ten (62%) say they trust the super committee “just a little” (34%) or “not at all” (28%) to “make the right recommendations about ways to reduce the federal budget deficit,” while only 5 percent say they trust the group “a great deal.”  Slightly more Democrats compared with Republicans and independents say they trust the panel at least “a fair amount” to make the right decisions (41% vs. 28% and 31%, respectively).  When asked about specific areas for possible cuts, more than half the public says they would not support any reductions to spending on Social Security (58%) or Medicare (51%).  Almost half (46%) say the same about Medicaid, while 36 percent would support minor reductions and just 16 percent want major reductions in Medicaid spending.

*    Fifty-two percent of Americans say that they or someone else in their household has what would be considered a “pre-existing condition.”  Among this group, one in five (21%) say they or their family member has had difficulty at some point getting health insurance because of a pre-existing condition, including 14 percent who say they were denied coverage because of the condition.  Most Americans (52%) believe people with pre-existing conditions will be better off under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  Yet many of those who report having a pre-existing condition, or living in a household where someone has one, are unaware that the health reform law offers new protections for them.  About four in ten are unaware that the law prohibits insurance companies from denying coverage because of a current or previous medical condition, for instance.  And over half either think the law does not prohibit insurance companies from setting lifetime caps on benefits (35%) or do not know whether it does or not (19%).

*    Americans’ opinions of the health reform law remain divided this month, much as they have since the law was passed.  In September, 41 percent say they have a favorable view of the law, while 43 percent have an unfavorable view.  Support for the law continues to be divided along party lines, with most Democrats holding a favorable view (65%) and most Republicans an unfavorable view (76%).  After reaching a high in August, the share of Republicans with a favorable view of the law dropped from 24 percent down to 14 percent this month.