Health

While Kentuckians remain divided over the Affordable Care Act, a new poll from the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky says support across the state for the health reform law has increased dramatically in the last several years. 

The Kentucky Health Issues Poll has conducted the survey every year since 2010, when the ACA, also known as “Obamacare,” was signed into law. That first year, 47 percent of Kentuckians had an unfavorable opinion about the health reform law and its many components. In 2018, 33 percent of Kentuckians polled said they had an unfavorable opinion about the law.

The poll was conducted between Aug. 26 and Oct. 21, 2018.

Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky

Ben Chandler, president of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, said in 2018, 44 percent of Kentuckians said they had a favorable opinion of the law, which is unchanged from the 2017 poll.

“I think as people have come to understand it [the law] a little bit better and understand most of the provisions in it, they tend to like it more,” Chandler said. “Because there are things in it like pre-existing conditions being covered, and keeping your child on your insurance until age 26, things like that are tremendously popular.”

A little over half – 56 percent – of Kentuckians in 2018 said they had enough information about the health reform law to understand how it would impact them personally. Forty-one percent said they didn’t have enough information about how it had affected them.

The poll also asked respondents for their political party affiliations, and answers were split along party lines. Twenty-nine percent of Republicans reported that the ACA had negatively affected them and their families, while nine percent of Democrats reported being negatively affected. Thirty-one percent of Democrats reported the law had positively affected them and their families, while 11 percent of Republicans reported being positively affected.

Chandler said 1,569 Kentuckians were asked specifically their opinions about the health reform law. He said that’s because terms like “Obamacare” and even “Affordable Care Act” have become politicized. Chandler said “health reform law” is more neutral. 

“We really wanted to get a neutral response [that] wasn’t driven by partisanship as much as we possibly could,” Chandler said. “Of course, so much water is gone under the bridge since then in terms of how the thing has been a propagandized across the board, really.”

In November, the federal government re-approved work requirements or a suitable alternative for Kentucky’s Medicaid population after a judge blocked the state’s first attempt earlier this year.

State officials said the new rules can begin as soon as April 1. They will require some adults in the ACA Medicaid expansion population to complete 80 hours of “community engagement” each month, which includes a job, volunteering or going to school.

Lisa Gillespie is WFPL's Health and Innovation Reporter.