Medicaid expansion is very popular, except when lied about

Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security are very, very popular programs. So it’s not surprising that Medicaid expansion is seen so very favorably.

In the new tracking poll from Kaiser Family Foundation, a poll so uniformly excellent it’s widely known as the gold standard in polling on health care, Medicaid expansion is one of the most liked elements of the Affordable Care Act.

But, before showing that data, here are some other important findings.

  • This poll shows that 53% Americans are tired about talking about the ACA, while 42% want to continue to discuss it.
  • Support for repealing the law is quite low. A combined 29% either want to repeal the law or repeal it and replace it with a Republican alternative.
  • In contrast, a combined 59% either want to keep the law as is or keep it in place and work to improve it.

Medicaid and many other provisions are popular across party lines

As the below chart shows, 74% of the public supports Medicaid expansion. Not only do 89% of Democrats support expansion, but so do 69% of Independents and 62% of Republicans.

Kaiser Family Foundation, March 2014 health tracking poll

Kaiser Family Foundation, March 2014 health tracking poll

As seen in many other polls, the individual mandate is not popular. However, every other element of the ACA has majority support.

Medicaid expanson is also popular in Maine

For example, a poll by the Maine People’s Resource Center, the most accurate polling organization in the state, surveyed likely voters in swing legislative districts.

(Regarding MPRC’s accuracy, Former LePage administration Communications and Policy Director Dan Demeritt said, “While there are conflicting numbers from two pollsters, I tend to believe the Maine People’s Resource Center, or MPRC, has the more accurate findings. Over the last two years they have polled eight contests and, without fail, their findings among the published public polls have been closest to the actual results.”)

MPRC found that 69% of these voters support Medicaid expansion in Maine.

Moreover, as MPRC Communications Director Mike Tipping reported, “57% of respondents report that they have close friends or family members without health insurance and 45% have put off medical treatment over the past 12 months because of cost. 50% said they or someone close to them has accessed health coverage through Medicaid or MaineCare at some point in their lives.”

These Maine findings should not be surprising. Medicaid expansion is very popular nationally and is even popular in Texas.

It’s also not surprising that when pollsters lie about Medicaid expansion, people are less supportive.

A duo of two groups, Foundation for Government Accountability and Americans for Prosperity-Maine, have released some numbers.

Foundation for Government Accountability is run by Tarren Bragdon, who used to run the Maine Heritage Policy Center, but now runs the Florida version of that group.

There are all kinds of oddities about these figures, such as the paltry less than 16% questioned who are 35 years old or younger.

But it’s the content of the questions that are truly striking, with an array, ranging from Maine’s expansion foes’ usual talking points (i.e., the false contention that expansion blocks people on waiting lists receiving services), vying with untruths told by Mitt Romney (i.e., the false statement that cuts to seniors’ Medicare fund Medicaid expansion),which are joined by new, offensive and false statements about a high prevalence of “former prison inmates” among Medicaid recipients.

Regarding the claims in these questions mentioned above: 1. The proposal written by two Republicans to expand Medicaid funds waiting list services while Gov. LePage has no plan to do so; 2. Not only are there are no cuts to seniors’ Medicare benefits but the ACA actually cuts prescription costs and adds free coverage of preventative care; and 3. The poll vastly overstates the number of former prisoners that would receive Medicaid.

Overall, Medicaid expansion has been extremely popular

That’s shown in poll after poll.

People generally think that low-income people should have access to health coverage, since it prevents deaths, improves health and makes medical bankruptcy far less common.

No wonder that undermining its support requires the repetition and creation of negative, false statements.

Given people’s personal knowledge of people without health insurance who need care, the purveyors of untruths have an uphill battle.

Amy Fried

About Amy Fried

Amy Fried loves Maine's sense of community and the wonderful mix of culture and outdoor recreation. She loves politics in three ways: as an analytical political scientist, a devoted political junkie and a citizen who believes politics matters for people's lives. Fried is Professor of Political Science at the University of Maine. Her views do not reflect those of her employer or any group to which she belongs.