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Large majorities of Americans want to preserve Obamacare's consumer protections, new poll finds

Large majorities of Americans want to preserve Obamacare's consumer protections, new poll finds
A Medicaid patient in Colorado looks over paperwork. Colorado is one of the states expected to expand Medicaid coverage through the Affordable Care Act. (Craig F. Walker / Denver Post)

Three-quarters of Americans want to preserve key protections in the Affordable Care Act that bar health insurers from turning away sick customers, according to a new poll that highlights the political pitfalls of current Republican efforts to roll back the safeguards.

The consumer protections are most popular with Democrats and independents, but even 58% of Republican respondents said a provision in the healthcare law prohibiting insurers from denying coverage because of person’s medical history is “very important.”

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Similarly large majorities said a second provision in the law that prohibits insurers from charging sick people more money is also “very important,” the nationwide survey by the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation found.

The 2010 healthcare law, often called Obamacare, is a top issue in this fall’s congressional elections, as Democrats have sought to highlight its landmark protections for Americans with preexisting medical conditions and GOP efforts to repeal them.

Before the law, people with such conditions – including cancer, diabetes, acne and even pregnancy — were routinely denied coverage or charged more by health insurers.

Congressional Republicans and the Trump administration tried unsuccessfully last year to roll back those protections, often arguing that they made health plans too costly.

Now a group of 20 Republican attorneys general and governors is suing in federal court, seeking to wipe out the whole law.

The Trump administration has joined the lawsuit, arguing that because Congress last year eliminated the tax penalty on people who do not have health coverage, some of the consumer protections should also be eliminated.

A hearing in that case is scheduled for Wednesday in a federal courtroom in Texas.

The lawsuit has helped fuel charges by Democrats that Republicans are intent on rolling back the most popular parts of the healthcare law, which is credited with extending health coverage to approximately 20 million previously uninsured Americans.

Healthcare now is the single most important issue for Democratic voters and the second most important issue for independent voters, after corruption in Washington, according to the Kaiser poll.

The issue ranks fourth for Republican voters, after the economy, immigration and corruption in Washington.

The nationwide survey also found that Americans across the political spectrum continue to be worried about rising healthcare costs, with nearly six in 10 saying they are “very concerned.”

Topping a list of pocketbook issues in the new poll are surprise medical bills, with two-thirds of respondents saying they are at least “somewhat” worried about being able to afford a bill from a doctor, hospital or lab that they believed was covered by their health plan.

That surpassed worries about paying for monthly utilities, health insurance, food, rent or a mortgage.

The poll was conducted Aug. 23-28 among a nationally representative sample of 1,201 adults. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points for the full sample.

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