(Originally posted on the National Physicians Alliance blog, June 12, 2011)
Recently, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) health care reform law received increased support from a surprising source: from the Republican Party.
As you know, Republican Representative Paul Ryan submitted a budget proposal that included major changes to Medicare. In short, Rep. Ryan's plan would change Medicare from its current structure to a voucher-based plan in which the government would provide subsidies for the cost for seniors to purchase private health insurance. Although this is similar to the mechanism the PPACA will use to provide access to health insurance for most Americans (providing subsidies to allow those who cannot afford to by insurance on their own), it is a major change from Medicare's current structure.
Rep. Ryan's plan to change Medicare is widely unpopular. 74% of seniors oppose it, as do 54% of conservatives. But Rep. Ryan's plan has had another outcome he likely did not intend: it has increased public support for the PPACA.
In a recent poll (PDF), the Herndon Alliance found that when respondents heard about Rep. Ryan's plan the rate of support for the PPACA rose 3%, from 42% to 45%. I realize 3% is not a large number, but considering how evenly split public opinion has been on the PPACA I believe this number is interesting. In this case, once people understood the extreme nature of what the House Republicans are aiming to do in "reforming" Medicare, the reasonable and common-sense reforms embodied in the PPACA become more appealing. The poll also found that voters were concerned that Rep. Ryan's proposal would reverse the PPACA reforms that would prevent insurance companies from denying care due to preexisting conditions. Finally, significant majorities of those polled opposed the impact Ryan's budget would have on Medicare (54% oppose the Ryan plan) and Medicaid (63% were very concerned about the impact on nursing home residents).
The poll results included more indications that the supposed public opposition to the PPACA's reforms is overblown: only 42% of respondents want the law repealed, only 39% want the PPACA defunded, and of the 58% of Americans who do not support the law fully 10% of them would have wanted the law to go farther than it did. Only 43% of the public felt that the PPACA went to far while 47% felt the reforms were appropriate or should have gone further.
Once again, we another poll reveals that a plurality of Americans oppose repealing or defunding the PPACA and that many feel the law should be given a chance or should have been extended. Once the public hears about the destructive ideas the PPACA's opponents and congressional Republicans would put in its place, the more the public supports the PPACA.
This is why we need to stay active and vocal, and need to continue speaking up in defense of the PPACA and its goal of fair access to care for all: because the alternatives would be disastrous.