Health law seen as eroding coverage

Published: Monday | December 16, 2013 Comments 0
US President Barack Obama.
US President Barack Obama.

WASHINGTON:

Americans who already have health insurance are blaming President Barack Obama's health care overhaul for their rising premiums and deductibles, and, overall, three in four say the rollout of coverage for the uninsured has gone poorly.

An Associated Press-GfK poll finds that health care remains politically charged going into next year's congressional elections. Keeping the refurbished HealthCare.gov website running smoothly is just one of Obama's challenges, maybe not the biggest.

The poll found a striking level of unease about the law among people who have health insurance and aren't looking for any more government help. Those are the 85 per cent of Americans who the White House says don't have to be worried about the president's historic push to expand coverage for the uninsured.

In the survey, nearly half of those with job-based or other private coverage say their policies will be changing next year - mostly for the worse. Nearly four in five (77 per cent) blame the changes on the Affordable Care Act, even though the trend toward leaner coverage predates the law's passage.

Sixty-nine per cent say their premiums will be going up, while 59 per cent say annual deductibles or co-payments are increasing.

Only 21 per cent of those with private coverage said their plan is expanding to cover more types of medical care, though coverage of preventive care at no charge to the patient has been required by the law for the past couple of years.

Fourteen per cent said coverage for spouses is being restricted or eliminated, and 11 per cent said their plan is being discontinued.

"Rightly or wrongly, people with private insurance looking at next year are really worried about what is going to happen," said Robert Blendon, a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, who tracks public opinion on health care issues. "The website is not the whole story."

Employers trying to control their health-insurance bills have been shifting costs to workers for years, but now those changes are blamed increasingly on "Obamacare" instead of the economy or insurance companies.

Political leanings seemed to affect perceptions of eroding coverage, with larger majorities of Republicans and independents saying their coverage will be affected.

Disapproval of Obama's handling of health care topped 60 per cent in the poll.

 

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