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Californians’ Views of Health Care Reform Shift—a Bit

Dean Bonner October 17, 2014

Open enrollment for health insurance through Covered California or HealthCare.gov is set to begin in less than a month, and Californians have had one year of experience obtaining coverage. The Affordable Care Act has divided the state as well as the nation. Have those views shifted? Yes and no.

Before the health insurance marketplace opened, PPIC asked Californians about the law’s potential impact. There was no consensus. About a quarter of respondents in our September 2013 survey said they thought they and their family would be better off (26%) and another quarter thought they would be worse off (24%). More thought the health reform law would not make much difference (43%). Adults nationwide were slightly more negative (24% better off, 32% worse off, 37% no difference), according to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll taken the same month.

Californians were divided along party lines in their opinions of the law’s impact, with half of Democrats (51%) saying the law would not make a difference to them and six in 10 Republicans (61%) saying they would be worse off. Californians without insurance were much more likely than those with insurance to say they would be better off (36% to 23%). Looking more broadly, pluralities across regions and demographic groups said that they expected the health reform law would make no difference to them or their families.

A year later, Californians’ opinions of the health reform law’s impact have shifted. In our latest survey, we asked respondents if it had directly helped them and their family, directly hurt them and their family, or had no direct impact. Most Californians (58%) say the health reform law has had no direct impact. Similar proportions say either it directly helped (20%) or it directly hurt (19%). Adults nationwide are slightly more likely to say the law hurt them (56% no direct impact, 14% helped, 27% hurt), the latest Kaiser Family Foundation poll shows.

Looking across political groups, we see more change. Majorities across parties (55% Democrats, 56% Republicans, 63% independents) say the health reform law has not had a direct impact on them or their family. Similarly, among the insured and the uninsured, 58 percent say the law has not affected them. In fact, majorities across regions and all demographic groups say the law has had no impact.

Although most Californians say they have not felt the law’s effects, they still remain sharply divided along party lines in their general opinion of the law. Six in 10 Democrats have a favorable opinion of the health care law, while eight in 10 Republicans have an unfavorable opinion of the law–almost identical findings to those last December.

Of course, the story of health care reform is far from over. At PPIC, we will continue to monitor Californians’ views of this issue and its impact on their lives.

News and analysis of California policy issues from PPIC

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