Sep 022014

• Affordable Care Act now ‘mainstream’ in state

• Ethnic voters are law’s biggest supporters

SAN FRANCISCO, California — Opposition to the Affordable Care Act/Obamacare is waning among California Republicans, and just over half of the state’s voters support extending Medi-Cal coverage to undocumented immigrants, according to survey findings released recently.

The poll found that Republican opposition to the law is beginning to flag. Last year, Republicans opposed the ACA by more than 4 to 1; that’s now dipped to greater than 3 to 1.

“Now that we’ve actually experienced the full implementation of the law, for some Republicans and for some who were opposed in the Central Valley and the inland areas, I think the fears they had about the law are not really bearing out. So some voters are actually now changing their minds,” says Mark DiCamillo, director of The Field Poll, which conducted the survey.

Backed by ethnic voters

Ethnic voters are chief among the supporters of expanding Medi-Cal (the state’s health care program for low-income children and adults) to the undocumented – some 73 percent of Latinos, 62 percent of African Americans, and 57 percent of Asian-Pacific Islander Americans – tipping the scales in favor of a statewide program (51 percent overall).

Moreover, close to 2 out of 3 voters agree that Medi-Cal is important to either themselves or their family members; three years ago, just over half of voters said this.

“That the safety net is an important component is now striking home for more and more voters, and that’s a remarkable finding. When Medi-Cal was first initiated it was meant to be a fairly targeted program for a relatively narrow class of Californians. Well, it’s now a mainstream program,” says DiCamillo. “It’s really underpinning the voter support for the overall reform law.”

Multilingual poll

The poll, carried out in June and July with funding from The California Wellness Foundation, surveyed just over 1,500 registered voters in seven languages (English, Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin, Tagalog, Korean, and Vietnamese; 368 interviews were conducted in non-English languages).

Overall, 56 percent of voters support the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and 35 percent are opposed. The margin of support has gone up by 6 percentage points since last year.

“Most of the national polls are not showing movements in the positive direction … [the support in California] is mainly driven by the fact that people here think California itself has been more successful in implementing the law,” says DiCamillo.

Over 60 percent of Latinos and Asian-Pacific Islander Americans support the health care reform law, as well as over 80 percent of African Americans. “The ethnic voting population has always been a big underpinning of support for the law here in California,” DiCamillo adds.

Support strongest in SF Bay Area

Regionally, support remains strongest in the San Francisco Bay Area and in Los Angeles, and there has been an increase in support in the Central Valley and parts of Southern California aside from L.A. County.

Findings show issues with the Covered California website, though. While close to 40 percent of English proficient voters said they had visited the website for the state’s health insurance marketplace, the number was only 23 percent among voters who are not English proficient.

“The website appears to have done pretty well among English speakers, but not as well among non-English speakers, particularly among Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, and Tagalog speakers,” says DiCamillo.

Additionally, some 46 percent of voters still say that paying for their health care is a financial hardship; the same percentage think that California has been unsuccessful in restricting the rate increases that insurance providers are able to impose on consumers.

This sets the stage for support of Proposition 45, which addresses rate changes and will be on the November ballot – nearly 70 percent of voters said they would support that proposition.


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