A new poll finds 60 percent of Georgians disagree with the state’s decision not to expand the state’s Medicaid program, a key provision of the Affordable Care Act.
The health reform law overall, though, fares less well in popularity. According to the survey, conducted by the Schapiro Group in August and sponsored by Healthcare Georgia Foundation, 42 percent of Georgians approve of the ACA and 46 percent disapprove.
The survey also found that the cost of care continues to be an important factor in whether consumers receive health care. Forty-two percent of Georgians said they wanted to seek care at some point, but chose not to do so, up from 33 percent the year before. Cost was the most cited reason for that decision.
And 40 percent of the 400 respondents said they think they have paid more for care over the past year.
“As the troubling trend of increased health care costs continues, Georgians who cannot afford health insurance are simply unable to seek or choosing not to seek the medical care they need,” said Gary Nelson, president of Healthcare Georgia Foundation.
The new poll of 400 adults found that more than 70 percent of Georgians say there has been no difference in their access to health care and quality of services over the past year, which saw the full rollout of the ACA.
The Medicaid program for the poor and disabled has overwhelming support among Georgians, the survey found, with 75 percent saying they believe it’s very important for health care. Overall, 91 percent say Medicaid is an important program for the state.
The general favorability of expanding that program is a finding that mirrors support for the move in other polls of Georgians. The survey found that 36 percent support the current decision on expansion.
“Georgia’s candidates for U.S. Senate and governor should not underestimate our state’s residents and their overwhelmingly positive view of Medicaid (91%) and their disapproval of the decision not to expand Medicaid,” Nelson said.
The ACA anticipated that Medicaid expansion would be implemented throughout the country, but the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states don’t have to do it. Currently, about half the states are going forward with it.
In Georgia, expansion would lead to hundreds of thousands of low-income uninsured Georgians receiving coverage.
Gov. Nathan Deal and leading Republican lawmakers in Georgia are opposed to expansion, citing the costs to the state.
The state leaders say expansion would cost more than $2 billion over 10 years. The Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, factoring in new state revenues that the expansion would trigger, puts the figure much lower. It estimates the net expansion cost at about $350 million over a decade’s time.
Georgians support some key provisions of the ACA, the survey indicates. At least three-quarters of Georgians support preventing health insurers from denying people coverage due to pre-existing health conditions, a main provision of the law.
A similar percentage back the requirement for insurers to cover some preventive care services at no cost to the patient.
But the Healthcare Georgia poll shows continued strong disapproval (51 percent) of the ACA requirement for most Americans to purchase health insurance or pay a penalty.
David Howard, an Emory University health policy professor asked by GHN to review the results, said Thursday that the survey reflects the negative view of the health law overall by Georgians.
The level of support for Medicaid expansion “doesn’t seem like a groundswell,’’ and likely won’t change Republicans’ positions on the issue, Howard said.
But he also said he believes the ACA in general will fade in importance as a political issue. “It isn’t going to resonate in a way that it has in the past,” he said.
Howard also agreed that the cost of health care is growing in importance, even for people with private insurance.
“A lot of employers are asking their employees to bear more of the cost,” he said. “That’s a real trend – people paying more out of their own pocket. That’s true for people with good insurance.”