Many Americans think repealing Obamacare won't repeal the ACA, survey finds

Republicans were more informed about the law, survey finds

More than one-third of U.S. residents do not know whether the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and Obamacare are the same law, according to a Morning Consult poll released Tuesday.

Writing in the New York Times' "Upshot," Kyle Dropp, co-founder and chief research officer of Morning Consult, and Brendan Nyhan, a professor of government at Dartmouth College, said U.S. residents' lack of understanding about the ACA could affect the current health care policy debate.

The poll was conducted on Jan. 25 and Jan. 26 and included responses from 1,890 adults.

Key findings

According to the poll:

  • 18 percent of respondents said they did not know whether the ACA and Obamacare were the same law; and
  • 17 percent said they thought the ACA and Obamacare were different laws.

The poll also found that 12 percent of respondents said they believed the ACA would not be repealed if Obamacare were repealed, while 32 percent said they did not know.

When compared with other demographics, the poll found that confusion about the ACA was higher among individuals ages 18 to 29 and those with annual incomes less than $50,000. Understanding of the ACA was higher among Republicans, with 72 percent of Republican respondents saying they knew the ACA and Obamacare were the same law. That could reflect the GOP's opposition toward the law, Dropp and Nyhan wrote.

Is this popular ACA provision straining the exchange markets?

The poll also highlighted confusion about what provisions would be affected if the ACA were repealed. For instance, 16 percent of respondents said "coverage through Medicaid and subsidies that help people buy private health insurance would not be affected" if the ACA were repealed, while 23 percent said they did not know. Sixty-one percent said they knew many individuals could lose their subsidies or Medicaid coverage if the ACA were repealed without a replacement.

According to the poll, understanding how a repeal of the ACA could affect Medicaid expansions and the law's subsidies differed by respondents' political affiliations. The poll found that 79 percent of Democrats said they knew Medicaid expansions and subsidies could be eliminated under legislation to repeal the ACA, compared with 47 percent of Republicans.

Implications for GOP's ACA repeal, replace plans

Confusion about the law could affect health care policy debate, Dropp and Nyhan wrote. They surmised that people might not know repealing Obamacare would affect popular provisions of the ACA, since they do not realize Obamacare and the ACA are the same. And that means people might not understand the consequences of proposals lawmakers are considering to repeal and replace the ACA.

Poll: GOP support for ACA repeal drops 17 percentage points after election

Congress last month approved a budget resolution that initiated the process for Republicans to repeal the ACA through the budget reconciliation process. 

While there has been some confusion surrounding Republicans' health care reform plans and timeline, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) during a news conference on Tuesday said Congress will pass legislation to repeal and replace the ACA sometime this year. However, Ryan added that the legislation's effective date could extend beyond 2017.

According to Politico, Ryan's comments came in response to a question about President Trump's recent comments suggesting it could take more than a year to implement a full ACA replacement plan (Calfas, The Hill, 2/7; Dropp/Nyhan, "The Upshot," New York Times, 2/7; Howell, Washington Times, 2/7; Cheney, Politico, 2/7; Sullivan, The Hill, 2/7; Cornwell, Reuters, 2/7).

Navigating the first 100 days of the Trump administration

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Since Donald Trump won the presidential election in November, health care reform has since quickly risen to the top of the GOP's policy agenda—and heath care executives are grappling with a new sense of uncertainty.

While many unknowns will remain across the next few months and potentially even years, the first 100 days of the Trump administration will provide significant insight into the direction of reform efforts. Read our briefing to learn what five key issues you should watch.

Download the briefing


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