After Obamacare, less push for health care spending

"The decline in support is from everyone," says Stephen Morgan. "Our conclusion is that a conservative 'cold front' may have arrived in 2010, fueled by the passage of the ACA." (Credit: Keoni Cabral/Flickr)

Passage of the Affordable Care Act has eroded support for federal health care spending not just among Republicans, but also Democrats and independents.

Before the 2010 passage of the law widely known as “Obamacare,” as many as 86 percent of Democrats thought too little was being spent on health. At the same time, about two-thirds of all independents and Republicans also supported increased health spending.

But since the law was enacted, Republican support for more federal health care spending dropped 25 percent. Support among Democrats dropped about 12 percent and support from independents dropped as much as 15 percent.

[Cartoon depicts 100 years of health care debate]

“One would expect strongly partisan responses to the passage of Obamacare,” says Stephen L. Morgan, professor of a sociology and education at Johns Hopkins University. “But the decline in support is from everyone. Our conclusion is that a conservative ‘cold front’ may have arrived in 2010, fueled by the passage of the ACA.”

Working with graduate student Minhyoung Kang, Morgan analyzed data from the 2004 to 2014 General Social Surveys, focusing on responses—before and after the passage of the Affordable Care Act—from survey respondents who indicated that “too little” is spent on the nation’s health.

The findings, published online in the journal Sociological Science, suggest the decline in support for government health care spending is not something that can be attributed to the Great Recession or to a lower appetite for federal spending in general.

[Do politics divide Americans more than race?]

Among Democrats, Republicans, and independents, support for health-care spending dropped significantly more than for spending in other areas, even related areas such as the environment, assistance for the poor, and scientific research.

Meanwhile, during the same time frame, public support for spending on space exploration and highways actually went up for all three groups.

The researchers even found a five point decline in the percentage of Democrats who feel that the federal government should help individuals pay doctor and hospital bills. The decline was much larger for Republicans and independents.

“Our interpretation is that attitudes toward spending on health are distinctly negative,” Morgan says. “It’s a disproportionately large drop for health care.”

Source: Johns Hopkins University