Few Support 'Individual Mandate' in Health Care Reform
Law, Poll Finds03/01/11
TUESDAY, March 1 (HealthDay News) -- Half of U.S. adults still
oppose the "individual mandate" clause in the new health care
reform law that requires all Americans not already insured to
purchase health insurance, while only 22 percent support it, a new
Harris Interactive/HealthDay poll finds.
But certain arguments in favor of the mandate seem to sway
opinion back toward support for it. For example, 71 percent of the
more than 3,000 adults polled in mid-February agreed with the
suggestion that "for health insurance to work, it is necessary to
include people who are healthy in order to help pay for those who
That seems to indicate that "while the individual mandate is
still widely unpopular, indeed by far the most unpopular part of
the Affordable Care Act [ACA], some arguments in favor of it are
supported by most people," said Humphrey Taylor, chairman of The
Harris Poll, a service of Harris Interactive.
Prior Harris Interactive/HealthDay polls have consistently shown
that the individual mandate is the only part of the Affordable Care
Act that is unpopular with a majority of Americans.
Half of those interviewed for the new poll felt the individual
mandate was unconstitutional, while 20 percent thought it was
constitutional, and 30 percent weren't sure. Among Republicans, 78
percent said the mandate was unconstitutional, compared with 31
percent of Democrats.
Most experts now believe that the constitutionality of the
individual mandate will only be settled by the U.S. Supreme
However, only slightly more than a third (36 percent) of those
polled believe that the nation's highest court would be able to
decide the issue in a non-political, non-partisan way. Thirty-nine
percent felt that any Supreme Court decision would be colored by
the justices' political leanings.
"Most people do not feel that the Court is above politics," Taylor said.
In recent lower court rulings on the Affordable Care Act, three
judges appointed by Democratic administrations have so far
supported the law, while two judges appointed by Republican
administrations have ruled it unconstitutional.
Devon M. Herrick is a senior fellow at the National Center for
Policy Analysis, a nonpartisan, nonprofit think tank focused on
free-market approaches to public policy. He believes that the
Supreme Court will largely look to the letter of the law when
making any decision.
"I do not believe federal judges will rule for or against the Affordable Care Act based solely on their political affiliation," he said. "However, differing political views can undoubtedly influence a judge's interpretation of whether the ACA's individual mandate violates the Constitution."
The new poll found that the nation as a whole is still split on
how it feels about the Affordable Care Act overall, with 39 percent
of respondents opposed to the reform package, 34 percent in favor
and 27 percent still undecided.
Most of this division cleaves along party lines, with 72 percent
of Republicans wanting to repeal all or most of the legislation,
compared to 15 percent of Democrats.
Smaller majorities agreed in the new poll with other arguments
that would support the individual mandate. For instance, 56 percent
agreed with the statement, "If everyone is required to have health
insurance, including healthy people, it will make the average cost
of insurance less expensive."
And 51 percent agreed with the contention that "requiring
insurance companies to provide health insurance to people with
preexisting conditions will not work unless everyone is required to
have insurance" -- a major argument often put forward as to why the
individual mandate is necessary.
The AARP said it agrees with that reasoning.
"Our members have been telling us for decades about the problems they've had getting or keeping access to health insurance because of their age or health history," said Nancy LeaMond, executive vice president of AARP's State and National Group. "The implementation of the ACA, which includes the individual mandate, is necessary to keep insurance companies from blocking coverage due to a person's age or pre-existing conditions, or dropping coverage when someone gets sick."
Other arguments in favor of the individual mandate didn't get
majority support in the new poll. For example, more people (54
percent) disagreed than agreed (46 percent) with this statement:
"If it is constitutional for the states to require people to buy
car insurance or wear seat belts, it should be constitutional for
the federal government to require people to buy health insurance if
they do not already have it."
There are parts of the Affordable Care Act that still garner
widespread support among Americans. For example, a majority of both
Republicans and Democrats like the provision that bars insurance
companies from refusing to cover people with pre-existing
"The individual mandate is the most controversial portion of the Affordable Care Act. Less than one-quarter of those surveyed support it," Herrick noted. "Yet, there is strong public support that people with pre-existing conditions should not face discrimination when purchasing coverage. The problem for policymakers is how to reconcile these two conflicting views."
The Harris Interactive poll of 3,419 Americans over the age of
18 was conducted online within the United States between Feb.
Read more about the poll methodology and findings at
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