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American Medical Association poll shows Nevadans like Obamacare

Updated June 27, 2017 - 5:37 pm

Nevadans are giving the U.S. House and Senate health bills a thumbs-down, according to a recent poll by the American Medical Association.

According to the survey, 45 percent of state residents favor the Affordable Care Act, popularly referred to as Obamacare, while 37 percent think it’s a bad idea.

Meanwhile, more than half of all Nevadans are opposed to the House health care bill.

Still, a hefty chunk of state voters just aren’t sure either way. Among respondents, 16 percent don’t have an opinion on Obamacare, while more than a quarter don’t have an opinion on the House legislation.

“It says they haven’t had the opportunity to read a 147-page bill,” so they’re not familiar with the provisions outlined in it, said Rota Rosaschi, executive director of the Nevada Public Health Foundation.

When it comes to Obamacare, opinions are largely split across party lines. Nearly 80 percent of Democrats favor the ACA, while almost 70 percent of Republicans think it’s a bad idea.

Nevada Republican Party Chairman Michael McDonald said he receives calls daily from families complaining that their premiums have doubled under Obamacare.

“Obamacare is collapsing on itself,” McDonald said. “Costs doubled. You can’t keep your doctor. Doctors can’t afford to take it.”

And while Democrats clearly oppose the House-passed health bill — 80 percent are against it, versus 4 percent who support it — among Republicans, opinions aren’t so drastic.

In fact, 40 percent of Republicans said they don’t have an opinion on the House health care legislation. And only 36 percent think it’s a good plan.

Whether a person can afford to pay for their insurance regardless of the Affordable Care Act’s prognosis can impact their opinion of the bill, Rosaschi said. A person’s age and whether they have a pre-existing condition can also have an impact.

“I would hope that it has nothing to do with politics and more to do with the state of Nevada and people that live here,” she said. “It shouldn’t matter which party is putting the bill forward. It needs to be representing the best interest of the people.”

Voter opinion mirrors that of Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval and Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., who held a joint press conference Friday to voice opposition to the Senate’s draft bill.

“This bill that’s currently in front of the United States Senate is not the answer,” Heller said at the event. “If this is the bill that I’m voting for on Tuesday, for the procedural motion to move ahead, I will be voting no.”

Six out of 10 Nevadans want the Senate to make major changes to the draft before passing it. A third hope no version of a repeal passes at all, poll results showed.

Nevada voters want Medicaid

The Senate’s 142-page draft bill calls for a phaseout of the ACA’s Medicaid expansion over four years between 2020 and 2024. It also would put a cap on funding available to states for the Medicaid program as a whole.

Nearly 630,000 state residents were covered under Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program as of April, according to most recent figures from the federal Center for Medicaid and CHIP Services. That’s about 20 percent of Nevada’s population.

After the state adopted the 2014 expansion, about 200,000 Nevadans became insured.

“When you look at the state of Nevada, we already have a percentage of uninsured, and our goal was to reduce that number,” Rosaschi said. “Now, that number could not only increase, but the consequences are significant.”

In the state, the program is viewed favorably. Almost 60 percent of voters like Medicaid, while 14 percent find it unfavorable, according to poll results. Most think funding for the program should remain untouched.

About 63 percent of respondents were insured under Medicaid, lived with someone covered under the plan or knew someone with Medicaid.

“Those struggling now will probably really struggle under the bill,” Rosaschi said.

Ideas for alternatives

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office released its review of the Senate bill Monday, highlighting that 22 million would lose health care coverage by 2026 and premiums would equal a large percentage of incomes for the poor, despite tax credits.

In the Senate bill’s current form — on which senators will vote following the weeklong July 4 recess, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., announced Tuesday morning — the legislation would set a four-year phaseout of the Medicaid expansion, put a cap on the program’s funding, eliminate the individual coverage mandate and remove requirements for states to cover mental health treatment.

As of Tuesday, five senators, including Heller, said they would not vote for the bill.

Nevadans have their own ideas for solving the health care battle. According to the poll, about 80 percent of residents voiced “total support” for allowing the purchase of insurance across state lines “so there is more competition between insurance companies to provide more options at a cheaper cost.”

Respondents also supported providing federal funding to those with preexisting conditions and to low-income individuals who would be dropped from their Medicaid plans.

Rosaschi said she would expect overuse of emergency over preventative services and, as a result, an increased burden on state and hospital dollars should the bill pass in its current form.

“As it stands now, my personal opinion is I hope it fails,” she said.

Contact Jessie Bekker at jbekker@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4563. Follow @jessiebekks on Twitter.

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