Politics & Government

California voters’ support for health care law inches up

The federal health care overhaul is garnering more support from California voters than at any time since its passage in 2010, but they believe the state could still do more to limit the amount insurance companies can charge customers for coverage, according to a new Field Poll.

Some 56 percent of registered voters support the law and 35 percent are opposed, contrasting sharply with the national average showing 54 percent oppose and 41 percent approve. Growing approval for the law in California could undercut what many considered a potent issue for Republicans heading into the Nov. 4 election. Many GOP challengers are running on a platform of repealing and replacing the law.

While Californians remain divided over the way the federal government has handled the Affordable Care Act, voters here by a two-to-one margin (60 percent to 30 percent) say the state has successfully executed the legislation. Voters believe state leaders have largely delivered on six of seven objectives, including decreasing the ranks of the uninsured, expanding Medi-Cal and providing better consumer protections.

“Most of the goals that were set out by the state were achieved,” said Mark DiCamillo, director of the poll. “However, there is one aspect of the law that people (here) aren’t satisfied with.”

Forty-six percent of California voters feel the state has not successfully limited the rate increases insurance companies are able to charge. Another 37 percent think the state has been successful and 17 percent are not sure.

Health insurance rates are at the center of a fall ballot initiative that would give rate-regulation authority to the state’s elected insurance commissioner. Commissioner Dave Jones, a Democrat who is advancing Proposition 45, argues it is the only way to slow down rapidly rising premium costs.

Officials from the state’s health insurance exchange, Covered California, contend the measure could disrupt their success because they already have a system in place to manage the market. Last month, Executive Director Peter V. Lee touted the 4.2 percent average increase for the upcoming year as evidence that the law is helping with affordability.

Forty-seven percent report paying more for health care than they did last year. While 46 percent experience difficulty paying for health care, the proportion reporting that costs are “very difficult” to afford dropped four points from last year.

The 21 percentage-point margin in favor of the law was up from 15 points last year.

Support emanated from the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles County and grew somewhat across other parts of Southern California and in the Central Valley region that includes Sacramento.

Not surprisingly, the views remained highly partisan, with Democrats overwhelming in support and Republicans opposing it by greater than a three-to-one margin. Among voters with no party preference, support grew two percentage points to 56 percent and opposition dropped 4 percentage points down to 33 percent.

The poll, eighth in an annual series of Field surveys funded through a grant from The California Wellness Foundation, also found that 43 percent of voters say federal lawmakers should expand the law, 36 percent favor a repeal and 12 percent want it left as is.