Field Poll: Support grows in California for federal health care law

08/20/2012 12:00 AM

08/20/2012 8:22 AM

A majority of California voters support the national health care overhaul, with the proportion of voters strongly favoring the legislation growing over the previous year, according to a new Field Poll.

The overall level of support for the law – 54 percent to 37 percent – is greater than in nationwide polls. The difference reflects an electorate that is heavily Democratic and in which more than one-third of voters are currently uninsured or say a family member has gone without insurance in the past two years. In 2011, the overall level of support was 52 percent to 39 percent.

The poll, sponsored by the nonprofit California Wellness Foundation, follows the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in June upholding the central parts of President Barack Obama's signature health care legislation.

The Supreme Court ruling appears to have strengthened support for the law among voters who previously were more reserved in their assessment, poll director Mark DiCamillo said. The percentage of voters who strongly support the legislation increased by seven percentage points over 2011, to 38 percent.

However, only 8 percent of voters say the law adequately addresses most of the changes they believe are needed to the nation's health care system. Fifty-three percent of voters said the law is the first of many changes that need to be made to the nation's health care system, while 33 percent of voters said the law is taking Americans in the wrong direction and needs to be reversed, according to the poll.

Despite believing the law will be good for California and the nation as a whole, a plurality of voters – 46 percent – don't think they or their families will be much affected by it.

Twenty-six percent of voters think they will be better off under the law, while 24 percent believe they will be worse off, according to the poll.

"The people who think it's going to benefit them are saying it for a good reason, because they are more likely to be the uninsured, or those who have recently gone without coverage," DiCamillo said.

Public opinion about the law is divided along partisan lines. More than three-quarters of Democrats support the law, according to the poll, while nearly as large a proportion of Republicans oppose it.

Fifty-one percent of California voters say Congress should stop efforts to repeal the law and allow it to take effect, and voters by a nearly 2-to-1 margin – 60 percent to 32 percent – disapprove of trying to cut funding as a way to stop its implementation, according to the poll.

Gov. Jerry Brown plans to call a special legislative session at the end of the year on the state's implementation of the health care law. The state is preparing for a major expansion of Medi-Cal, the state's version of Medicaid, and it is setting up a public health insurance exchange.

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