Obamacare Insured Millions, but That Doesn't Mean They Like It

You can give the people health insurance, but you can’t make ‘em like it. Favorable views of the Affordable Care Act in the U.S. haven’t really budged in the last year, according to a new poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation. That’s despite the fact that roughly 10 million adults under 65 gained coverage, according to an analysis published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Obamacare’s image took an unsurprising dive last fall after healthcare.gov’s floundering start. While negative views of the law have moderated slightly, the share of people who view it favorably hasn’t increased significantly, according to Kaiser’s data. On balance, public opinion remains more negative than positive.

Why didn’t increasing insurance coverage for millions of people make the law more popular? One hypothesis: Most of the people who got coverage were always in the supporter camp, and those who oppose Obamacare are mostly people who don’t have much to gain from it (i.e., they already have coverage through employers or Medicare). And there are such places as Kentucky, where the law broadly succeeded yet remains unpopular with voters, including some who benefited from it.

It’s conceivable that views of Obamacare are so entrenched that they’re mostly disconnected from the reality of the law. The open enrollment period will begin on Nov. 15, and public opinion may remain just as divided, no matter how well (or badly) that process goes. Americans agree on one thing: The law is losing its punch as an election issue. The Kaiser poll found that only 8 percent of registered voters called Obamacare their most important priority in deciding how to vote.

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