The Perils of Trying to Repeal Health Care Reform

Conservatives, flush from their election victory, are promising a big effort to repeal health care reform in the next Congress. They should reconsider. Not only are they likely to fail to achieve their goal but they also are likely to become very unpopular in the process. This is because most parts of the Affordable Care Act, or ACA, are actually quite popular and any attempt to repeal them could very well turn public sentiment against the repeal advocates.

Consider these data from the latest Kaiser Health Tracking Poll. The poll tested public support for repealing six elements of ACA and found strong majority support for retaining five of the six elements: tax credits for small business to offer health care coverage (78 percent keep to 18 percent repeal); closing the Medicare prescription drug doughnut hole (72 percent keep to 22 percent repeal); providing financial help for those who don’t get insurance through their jobs (71 percent keep to 24 percent repeal); no denial of insurance coverage for pre-existing conditions (71 percent keep to 26 percent repeal); and increasing the Medicare payroll tax on upper-income Americans (54 percent keep to 39 percent repeal). Only the individual mandate was not supported.

That’s the public as a whole. But even among those who say all or parts of ACA should be repealed support runs strong for four of the six elements tested: 68 percent for the small business subsidies; 62 percent for prohibiting denial of coverage due to pre-existing conditions; 60 percent for closing the doughnut hole; and 55 percent for individual subsidies.

Conservatives shouldn’t kid themselves. Repealing ACA means taking away key reforms that have very broad public support. And that is likely to displease the public greatly no matter what conservatives think.

Ruy Teixeira is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress. To learn more about his public opinion analysis go to the Media and Progressive Values page and the Progressive Studies program page of our website.