On Health Care, Obama Says "We're Not Going Back" But 55% of Americans Prefer Old System


While President Obama recently said, "We're not going back" on health care reform, given the choice, a majority of Americans say they would prefer to go back to the pre-2010 health care system.

The December Reason-Rupe poll finds that 55 percent of Americans would choose the health care system that was in place before the Affordable Care Act was passed, while 34 percent prefer the new health care system designed by the 2010 federal health care law.

Predictably, a hefty majority of Republicans, 78 percent, favor the old health care system, while 53 percent of Democrats prefer the Affordable Care Act. A third of Democrats, 33 percent, would actually prefer the pre-2010 health care system. Independents side with Republicans with 59 percent who favor the prior health care system, while 31 percent the new system.

Support for the new health care system increases with education: only 28 percent of those with high school degrees or less favor the new health care system compared to 42 percent of those with post-graduate degrees. Although educational attainments is correlated with preference for the new system, income is not.

Even majorities of some of the cohorts the Affordable Care Act was designed to help would prefer to go back to the old health care system. Among those who do not have any form of health insurance, 54 percent prefer the pre-2010 health care system.  Slim majorities of lower income Americans also favor the prior system. Fifty-one percent prefer the old system among those making less than $45,000 a year and 37% favor the new system. 

While younger Americans are evenly divided, attitudes diverge between older and younger millennials. A majority (55 percent) of older millennials (25-34 year olds) prefer the previous health care system, 39 percent prefer the new system. In contrast, young millennials 18-24 are evenly divided 44 to 45 percent.

Hispanics are divided with slightly more (49%) who say they prefer the prior health care system over the ACA system (40 percent). Similarly, African-Americans are also divided but slightly more (49%) prefer the new system over the previous one (40 percent). Only 28 percent of white Americans favor the new system, while 62 percent favor the previous system.

Among the 34 percent who favor the Affordable Care Act system, majorities oppose some of the key components of the law that has defined the system: a little more than half of these respondents oppose requiring younger people pay more for health insurance to expand coverage to the uninsured and subsidize the costs of older less healthy people and those with preexisting conditions.  Americans who favor the new system are evenly divided over whether asking younger people pay more for health care is justified if it expands coverage for everyone, for instance to include mental health care and maternity care. A slim majority (52 percent) also feels low-cost, low-coverage health insurance policies should be allowed, while 43 percent say they should be prohibited.

Nationwide telephone poll conducted Dec 4-8 2013 interviewed 1011 adults on both mobile (506) and landline (505) phones, with a margin of error +/- 3.7%. Princeton Survey Research Associates International executed the nationwide Reason-Rupe survey. Columns may not add up to 100% due to rounding. Full poll results, detailed tables, and methodology found here. Sign up for notifications of new releases of the Reason-Rupe poll here.