Though the public remains skeptical of the health care law, a Kaiser Family Foundation survey suggests that Democrats hold a political advantage in the live policy debates surrounding the issue.
The survey, part of the organization’s monthly tracking poll, found support for the 2010 law split nearly evenly. Forty-two percent of the adults surveyed had a favorable view of the law, while 43 percent viewed it unfavorably.
But despite the continued lukewarm reception for the health care law generally, the survey found that the public still trusts President Obama to make the right decisions about the future of the law more than any of his Republican challengers. The survey shows that 58 percent trust the president, compared with between 33 and 43 percent for his challengers.
Two health care policy debates also favor the Democrats. Survey respondents agree with the Democratic position on Medicare and the roiling contraception debate. Congressional Republicans are pushing a vote on Thursday on an amendment that would allow employers to avoid covering services they deem immoral, a response to an Obama administration policy that requires most employers, including those with religious affiliations, to offer employees health insurance plans that cover contraception.
The survey results found that 63 percent support the president's policy, compared with 33 percent who oppose it. The survey also found that people tended to view the issue through the preferred Democratic frame — women’s rights — rather than the Republican frame of religious freedoms, though by a small margin. Twenty-four percent said the debate was primarily about women’s rights; 23 percent said it was more a matter of religious freedom; 26 percent said it was about both. Democrats also had an edge when the survey asked who was more trusted on the issue: Forty-nine percent said Democrats, while 32 percent said Republicans.
House Republicans voted for a budget plan last year that would have converted Medicare from a government-run insurance program to a voucher system that seniors could use to purchase private plans. That budget did not become law, but discussion continues among Republicans in Congress and the GOP presidential candidates about establishing some version of “premium support” that would direct more seniors into the private market.
Such a plan was not popular in the Kaiser survey, with 70 percent saying they wanted to keep Medicare as is, and 25 percent favoring reform. Even Republicans favored the status quo, though by a smaller margin — 53 percent versus 39 percent. Half of the survey participants also opposed the idea of using any Medicare cuts to help balance the budget. Overall, 43 percent of the participants trusted Democrats to handle the Medicare program best, while 36 percent chose Republicans.
The survey was conducted between Feb. 13 and Feb. 19 and included 1,519 adults who were surveyed by phone. The margin of error was plus or minus 3 percentage points.