Kaiser poll: 75% say Congress shouldn't repeal or ObamaCare or should wait until there's a replacement ready

Righties on Twitter are crying “fake news!” or “fake poll!” over this but the results are actually predictable. Half the country, i.e. the left, will oppose repealing ObamaCare for partisan reasons. The other half, the right, will divide between people who want to blow it up ASAP and people who worry that tearing down the new system without having a new one ready to go sounds like a recipe for chaos. Put all of that together and, yeah, 75 percent seems about right. Bear in mind too that lots of low-information voters on both sides have probably never heard of “repeal and delay.” When you ask them if O-Care should be repealed now or later, they may assume — wrongly — that repealing the law now would mean that the exchanges would end immediately, leaving millions of people with no insurance. In reality, the GOP’s plan is to pass repeal ASAP but delay its implementation for a few years until the new system is ready. The exchanges would keep going until then.

If you want to attack the poll, that’s the way to attack it: None of the choices below accurately capture the GOP’s actual intentions. Treat this as a warning, though, of how badly the PR war over repeal might go for them and Trump and if the Democrats’ “sky is falling” message prevails. Even though the public narrowly supports repeal generally, 49/47, fully 75 percent are primed to believe that repeal before a replacement is ready is a bad idea.


Here’s an interesting result, in which Kaiser does something that public pollsters rarely do — they ask follow-up questions aimed at seeing how much the numbers in the graph above move if certain key assumptions are changed. If you stress to people that health-care costs for ObamaCare consumers will rise unless the system is replaced, how much does opposition to repeal soften? If you stress that people with preexisting conditions will lose coverage if the law is repealed, how much will opposition harden? Knowing the answers is important to knowing which attack lines to emphasize in the coming PR war, needless to say.


A third of the public seems durably opposed to repeal while a quarter to a third seems durably supportive. You can also see from the last bar graph above why the GOP has been so adamant lately that one of their top priorities is making sure no one loses coverage while the replacement process is happening. Opposition to repeal soars to 60 percent if the public comes to believe that those with plans under the current system will end up without insurance if it’s repealed. Republicans have no choice politically, it seems, but to promise that that won’t happen. But note Philip Klein’s warning: Making promises on health care that he knew he couldn’t keep was one of Obama’s worst mistakes in getting the law passed. The GOP’s putting itself in the same position now to protect the political capital it momentarily enjoys to undo the law.

“We don’t want anyone who currently has insurance to not have insurance,” said senior Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway about those who are currently covered through Obamacare. There is simply no way that Republicans could repeal the taxes, regulations and spending in Obamacare and expect that it won’t cause any disruption to anybody…

Republicans are in serious danger of repeating Obama’s mistake, because they are having a tough time stating a simple truth, which goes something like this: “We don’t believe that it is the job of the federal government to guarantee that everybody has health insurance.”…

If … Republicans don’t have the courage to defend their opposition to government healthcare guarantees, they are doomed to fail. The process of replacing Obamacare will be crippled by the conflict between trying to meet some sort of vague coverage target and trying to limit levels of taxes and spending. Even if Republicans manage to pass some sort of plan to repeal and replace Obamacare within these constraints, they will suffer political consequences when the rhetoric they used to sell their plan meets reality.

Even if the GOP Congress is prepared to face a popular backlash over “broken promises,” Trump might not be. Remember, he sold himself during the primary as someone who wouldn’t let sick people die in the streets, a contrast he drew implicitly with the rest of his party. If insurers start quitting the exchanges after repeal passes and people start losing coverage, it’s hard to imagine him sitting by for two years telling voters to be patient because the replacement’s coming as the media runs interview after interview with people with preexisting conditions who can’t pay for treatment anymore. The GOP may quickly find itself in a position of throwing however much money is needed at insurers to keep them doing business in the exchanges.

Oh, one last result from Kaiser: When asked to choose between “guaranteeing a certain level of health coverage and financial help for seniors and lower-income Americans, even if it means more federal health spending and a larger role for the federal government” — i.e. Medicare and Medicaid — and “limiting federal health spending, decreasing the federal government’s role, and giving state governments and individuals more control over health insurance, even if this means some seniors and lower-income Americans would get less financial help than they do today,” Americans split 62/31. Still think Paul Ryan and Tom Price will have Trump’s full backing on Medicare reform once the Democratic message machine really gets rolling on that?