Poll: Americans Prefer Lower Costs to Obamacare Provisions

Are Obamacare's preexisting-conditions protections truly popular, as has frequently been alleged? Or are they popular only so long as Americans aren't aware of the clear connection between those protections and skyrocketing premiums?

A new McLaughlin & Associates poll, commissioned by the Hudson Institute, finds the latter: When the link is made between Obamacare's preexisting-conditions protections and higher premiums, Americans prefer lower premiums to Obamacare's protections.

The poll (which included 36 percent Democrats and 33 percent Republicans) asked the following question:

"Some say Obamacare's pre-existing conditions protections, which now let people wait until they're sick to buy insurance, are a good thing, while others say that's like buying homeowners insurance while your house is on fire and this is the main reason why Obamacare premiums have gone up 40 percent over the past two years. Which of the following would you prefer most?"

They would then choose between the four possible answers: (a) The current Obamacare pre-existing conditions protections remain unchanged; (b) Lower health insurance premiums; (c) Different pre-existing conditions protections that don't raise premiums as much; and (d) Unsure;

A plurality of respondents (37 percent) said they would prefer lower premiums. Respondents were split about evenly between whether they would prefer to keep Obamacare's preexisting-conditions protections (27 percent) or substitute different preexisting-conditions protections that wouldn't raise premiums as much (26 percent).

Thus, the poll finds that Americans favor lower premiums (with or without preexisting-conditions protections) over Obamacare's preexisting-conditions protections, by a tally of more than two-to-one: 63 to 27 percent. Among independents, the margin is more than 3-to-1: 65 to 20 percent.

At the same time, the poll finds that Americans prefer preexisting-conditions protections (whether Obamacare's or different ones) over lower premiums without preexisting-conditions protections, by a tally of 53 percent to 37 percent.

It seems clear, then — based on the poll's results — that Americans do want preexisting-conditions protections, but they do not want Obamacare's preexisting-conditions protections if those lead to higher premiums, which they unquestionably do.

Even the Obama White House said that if the individual mandate were eliminated or rendered ineffective, then Obamacare's preexisting-conditions protections — its "community rating" mandate (coupled with "guaranteed issue") — would make health insurance "cost prohibitive," "would lead to double-digit premium increases," and "would significantly increase the cost [of] health care spending nationwide."

As Stephanie Cutter wrote on the White House blog in 2011:

"We don't let people wait until after they've been in a car accident to apply for auto insurance and get reimbursed, and we don't want to do that with health care. If we're going to outlaw discrimination based on preexisting conditions, the only way to keep people from gaming the system and raising costs on everyone else is to ensure that everyone takes responsibility for their own health insurance."

Experience has subsequently shown that even with Obamacare's unprecedented individual mandate in effect, this "gaming" and those "double digit premium increases" have occurred.

What would "different pre-existing conditions protections that don't raise premiums as much" look like? The Hudson Institute's "An Alternative to Obamacare," which I authored, proposes the following commonsense protections:

1.) No one could be dropped from their insurance, or charged more, if they get sick;

2.) Those first entering adulthood (or leaving college) would have one year to buy insurance without being charged more for a preexisting condition;

3.) Parents would have one year to buy insurance for a newborn without paying more if the child has a preexisting condition;

4.) Those moving from job-based insurance would have two months to buy insurance on their own without being charged more for a preexisting condition;

5.) Those in the individual market could switch to a new plan providing the same, or lower-level, coverage than they currently have, without being charged more for a preexisting condition; and

6.) $7.5 billion a year in federal funding for state-run "high risk" pools would keep anyone from being denied affordable coverage through those pools.

Such commonsense provisions would give Americans preexisting-conditions protections that don't send premiums through the roof. The McLaughlin & Associates polling suggests that this is what Americans want.