Iowa adults are evenly split over the Affordable Care Act, a new Iowa Poll shows. Forty-six percent believe it has been mostly a failure, and 45 percent say it has been mostly a success. In an Iowa Poll last October, 59 percent of Iowans said the law was mostly a failure, and just 32 percent saw it as mostly a success.
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Few Iowans like how Congress is attempting to revamp the nation’s health care system, a new Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll shows.
Just 29 percent of Iowa adults say they mostly support the direction congressional Republicans are taking on health care, according to the poll. Twice as many — 58 percent — say they mostly oppose that direction. Thirteen percent are unsure.
The new poll comes as Republican leaders in the U.S. Senate are struggling to push through their version of a health reform bill. No Democrats plan to vote for the bill, which would curtail significant parts of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. The bill needs support from at least 50 of the Senate’s 52 Republican members. Iowa’s senators, Republicans Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, have not yet said how they will vote.
The new Iowa Poll was taken shortly before Republican Senate leaders unveiled the latest version of the health reform bill late this week. It comes two months after Republicans controlling the U.S. House narrowly passed their version of the bill, and three weeks after the first draft of the Senate bill was released.
The Iowa Poll shows a deep partisan split over congressional Republicans’ efforts on health care. Those efforts draw opposition from 87 percent of Iowa Democrats and 63 percent of political independents, but just 25 percent of Republicans.
The new poll also reflects divisions within the Republican Party that are making it hard for the party’s leaders to get the bill passed. Among Iowa Republicans who oppose the direction of the congressional efforts, 51 percent say the proposed changes don’t go far enough and 45 percent say the proposed changes go too far. Republican leaders are trying to cobble together a bill that would appease Senate conservatives, who demand a full repeal of the Affordable Care Act, and moderates, who say they are trying to prevent tens of millions of Americans from losing their health insurance.
The poll of 800 Iowa adults, conducted June 9-13 by Selzer and Co., has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
Iowa Poll participants Kimberly West and Curt Grim don’t agree on much — but they both say Congress is doing a terrible job on health care. West, a Democrat, wants Congress to preserve and improve the Affordable Care Act. Grim, a Republican, wants Congress to rip it out entirely. Neither expects to get what they want.
West, 51, of Oelwein, is among 44 percent of Iowa Poll participants who see the Affordable Care Act as mostly a success.
West would like to see the United States eventually adopt a government-financed health care system like Canada’s. The Affordable Care Act was a step in the right direction, she said in an interview.
“It got our foot in the door,” she said. “I don’t want it abolished because we would never get that door open again. Never.”
West, who owns an antique shop, said she used to have private insurance through her former job as an ironworker. She’s now on disability due to a neck injury and receives Medicare coverage. She acknowledged that the Affordable Care Act has flaws because of the way it was cobbled together in Congress.
“There was a lot of push and shove and push and shove,” she said. But Congress should improve it instead of repealing it, she said.
Grim, who lives in Centerville, is among the 50 percent of Iowa Poll participants who see Obamacare as mostly a failure. In fact, Grim calls it “a disaster” that has led to out-of-control costs.
Grim thinks too many congressional Republicans seem willing to cave to Democratic demands that they try to repair Obamacare instead of repealing it wholesale as they have promised for seven years.
“I think they’re gutless,” he said. “They only care about getting re-elected.”
Grim, 54, gets his health insurance through his job as a social studies teacher at Red Oak High School. He said Democrats who controlled Congress in 2010 rammed the Affordable Care Act through without proper debate. Now that Republicans control Congress, Grim blames Democrats for the fact that the current bill isn’t being considered in normal committee hearings. He said Democrats have shown no interest in constructive discussions.
“They’re obstructionists,” he said. “They will not work with Republicans.”
Frustration with Congress
Poll participant Sheri Taylor of West Burlington believes Obamacare has been mostly a success.
“I know a lot of people who wouldn’t have their houses or their health if it weren’t for the Affordable Care Act,” she said. “How come we’re the only modern nation that doesn’t have health care for everybody?”
Taylor, 38, is a political independent who works in the kitchen of a convenience store. She has Medicaid coverage for herself and her 12-year-old son. She would change some things about the Affordable Care Act, including its requirement that most Americans have insurance. But she’s furious about the debate in Washington, which she fears will wind up leaving millions of Americans uninsured.
“I think Congress is a joke, and our country would be better served by a bunch of third-graders. I’ve seen third-graders compromise with each other,” she said.
Gary Szakacs, a Des Moines Republican, is among the 29 percent of Iowa Poll participants who said they “mostly support” the direction congressional Republicans are heading on health care. In an interview, Szakacs stressed the word “mostly.”
Szakacs believes Obamacare should be significantly changed, but he also thinks Republicans in Congress should try to work with Democrats. They shouldn’t be trying to ram their bill through without holding public hearings and full debates, he said. Democrats were rightly criticized for pushing the Affordable Care Act through in 2010 without giving enough time for Americans to understand it, he said. Now that Republicans control Congress, they’re doing the same thing, he said.
“That’s terrible,” he said. “They should be more transparent.”
Szakacs, 68, is a retired phone company employee who gets his health care coverage through Medicare. He said he feels sorry for people who can’t afford health insurance, but the country can’t sustain limitless spending. When compared with current law, the Republican proposals would cut billions of dollars out of Medicaid, which covers health care for poor and disabled Americans. Szakacs said that’s probably necessary.
“So be it,” he said. “You only have so much money.”
Overall, the Affordable Care Act’s popularity has slipped a bit in Iowa since a February Iowa Poll. In the new poll, 44 percent think the law has been mostly a success and 50 percent think it has been mostly a failure. In the poll five months ago, those figures were 45 percent and 46 percent, respectively, with 9 percent unsure.
A national poll published last month by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 51 percent of Americans had favorable views of the Affordable Care Act, and 41 percent had unfavorable views.
Parts of law popular
The Iowa Poll, like many national polls, shows that most of the major parts of the Affordable Care Act remain more popular than the overall law.
For example, 83 percent of Iowans want the country to continue barring insurers from denying coverage to people due to pre-existing health conditions, the poll shows. Seventy-five percent of Iowans want to retain a section allowing parents to keep their sons and daughters on their health insurance policies until age 26. Sixty-eight percent want to retain the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of the Medicaid program to cover more poor adults. And 59 percent of Iowans want the federal government to keep giving subsidies to help moderate-income Americans pay health insurance premiums.
As in previous Iowa Polls, the only major part of the Affordable Care Act failing to gain majority approval is a requirement that Americans obtain health insurance. Just 36 percent of Iowa adults support that section, compared to 60 percent who want it repealed.
The poll also asked whether Iowans expect their ability to afford health care or health insurance will get better or worse in the next year. Overall, 55 percent of Iowans expect they’ll be less able to afford health care or health insurance, and 37 percent expect they’ll be more able to afford it. Democrats are the most pessimistic, with 68 percent saying they expect to be less able to afford health care or health insurance in the next year. Just 38 percent of Republicans and 59 percent of political independents feel that way.
About the Poll
The Iowa Poll, conducted July 9-13 for The Des Moines Register and Mediacom by Selzer Co. of Des Moines, is based on telephone interviews with 800 Iowans ages 18 or older. Interviewers with Quantel Research contacted households with randomly selected landline and cell phone numbers supplied by Survey Sampling International. Interviews were administered in English. Responses were adjusted by age and sex to reflect the general population based on recent census data.
Questions based on the sample of 800 Iowa adults have a maximum margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. This means that if this survey were repeated using the same questions and the same methodology, 19 times out of 20, the findings would not vary from the percentages shown here by more than plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. Results based on smaller samples of respondents — such as by gender or age — have a larger margin of error.
Republishing the copyright Iowa Poll without credit to The Des Moines Register and Mediacom is prohibited.