How much do conservatives hate Obamacare? Enough that some of them might be boycotting its insurance exchanges this year, even if they’re uninsured. That’s according to a new study by researchers at the University of Washington, who polled thousands of the state’s residents to see whether endless partisan struggle over the health care law had affected Americans’ willingness to buy coverage through its online markets.
To figure out how participants leaned politically, the survey asked them whether they blamed President Obama and the Democrats or the Republicans for last year's government shutdown, and whether they agreed with the Supreme Court's decision upholding the Affordable Care Act. Overall, just 7 percent of participants said they would definitely use the exchanges this year, while another 20 percent were unsure. Even after adjusting for factors like age, finances, and personal health, uninsured individuals were much more likely to say they planned to buy coverage on an exchange if they blamed the GOP for the shutdown than if they blamed the Democrats.
Meanwhile, the "unsure" group showed signs of feeling politically conflicted. When it came to their financial concerns and health needs, they were similar to the group that planned to use the exchanges. However, when it came to their feelings about the shutdown, they were more similar to the group that did not plan to use the exchanges.
The authors conclude that "the current political rancor in our federal government" may make it "difficult to enroll certain segments of the eligible population through the Exchange." As a fix, they suggest more "bipartisan outreach."
Jason Millman at the Washington Post might have a more realistic takeaway: Democrat-led states with large conservative populations may be best off following in Kentucky's footsteps. The government there did its best to obscure the connection between Obamacare and its state exchange, which it branded as Kynect. This has led to a strange political situation in which many Kentuckians claim to love their health care marketplace, yet to dislike the reform law. But that contradiction is preferable to letting people pass up affordable health coverage.