By Pilar Marrero– Pilar.email@example.com | 2011-10-13
LOS ANGELES, CA. – Latino voters have a complicated relationship with the health care reform law approved in March 2010. On the one hand, they support the majority of its provisions and oppose its repeal. But just like other voters, they are against the clause that will force them to purchase coverage, the so-called mandate.
These are some of the results of an impreMedia/Latino Decisions (IM-LD) poll that was conducted in collaboration with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Center for Health Policy at the University of New Mexico, the fifth in a series of six national polls exploring the opinions of the Latino group that has best integrated into American society: registered voters. This particular poll focused on the issues of insurance coverage and the health care reform law.
The results reveal that 50% of Latino voters support the Affordable Health Care Act and only 29% support its repeal. These numbers are similar to those of the general population. However, 59% of these voters are not well disposed toward one of the law’s regulations, which makes it mandatory for them to purchase insurance if they do not have coverage. They are against it.
In fact, the insurance mandate is the most controversial part of the most important health care law approved in the United States in many years. It has been the subject of several lawsuits, as well as at least two appeals court decisions, one supporting its constitutionality and the other one rejecting it. The U.S. Supreme Court is likely to take up this issue next year.
On the other hand, Latino voters overwhelmingly support the law’s other provisions. For example, 85% support having the government provide tax credits to small businesses offering their employees coverage, and 63% support prohibiting insurance companies from denying potential insured patients coverage because of their medical history.
“Latino voters support the health care reform and in particular, they support many of its clauses except for the mandate. When we explore the reasons a bit more, we see Latinos of more limited means are more concerned about it,” said Matt Barreto, a professor at the University of Washington, Seattle and advisor for Latino Decisions. Latinos could be rejecting the mandate based partly on the idea that those who do not comply with the mandate could be subject to a penalty, Barreto explained. Among respondents with incomes lower than $40,000 per year, 65% oppose it, the strongest opposition within the group.
Barreto points to the already familiar political profile of the majority of Latino voters, in which the idea of “intrusive government” that intervenes in private affairs is not an important concern. This is a key point conservatives and in particular, the Republican Tea Party, which seeks to repeal the law, are opposed to.“On the contrary, the majority of Latinos see government action on social issues like these in a favorable light,” said Barreto.
Gabriel Sánchez, a political science professor at the University of New Mexico, thinks that since this is the provision most used by Republican groups to question the law in general, these results reflect the success of that strategy. “The mandate is not currently popular with any group in society. Obviously, that’s where those who question the reform have focused, and it’s echoing strongly,” said Sánchez.
However, that does not mean Latino voters favor a repeal of the law—a popular theme among conservatives who never supported the reform and one of the most popular points of debate in the Republican presidential primaries. All the Republican candidates have promised that, if elected president, they would seek to repeal the Affordable Health Care Act. They have also criticized the mandate, the public expense of expanding coverage and other aspects of the law.
But Latinos support the coverage expansion included in the reform, since they back provisions whose objective is offering insurance to the uninsured. More examples from the poll: 75% support the Medicare prescription drug “doughnut hole” or coverage gap clause, while 80% favor providing financial help to those who are not able to purchase coverage. Nevertheless, optimism about the law’s impact is moderate, and parts of the poll reveal that these respondents do not expect much from the measure.
When asked about the law’s effect on the quality of the health care they will receive, 47% think it will stay about the same, while only 23% think it will be better and another 23% think it will be worse. Opinions about the cost of health care were similar: 38% think it will remain about the same, 24% it will be better and 31% it will be worse. More politically worrisome for Washington is the fact these voters feel the government is not listening to their problems—and right now, they are not alone. A total of 58% of Latino voters think their needs are taken into account in D.C. only somewhat or not too much.
The poll reveals that 17% of Latino voters do not have insurance coverage—a smaller percentage than Latinos in general, which is over 30%. Voters are thought to be in a better position than more recent immigrants, since not only are they more integrated, but they also have more access to jobs that include health insurance coverage. When it comes to that, 44% said they obtain insurance coverage through work, 8% purchase it privately and 21% through the government.
The coverage level for the general population is similar to that of Latino voters, the Latino group that has best integrated into the U.S. For example, in September, a Kaiser survey showed that of the general population, 14% are uninsured, 46% are covered through work, 10% purchase private insurance and 23% are covered by the government.
Among Latino voters, 25% said they have lost their health insurance coverage in the last two years, while 56% said the cost of their coverage has increased, becoming a heavy burden for the family’s pocket.
METHODOLOGY: LD polled 600 Latino registered voters in October, 2011 in the 21 states with the largest Hispanic populations, representing 95% of the electorate. Those interviewed were selected at random from voters lists. The poll includes interviews conducted via cell phone and land line telephones. The margin of error is +/-4%. The interviews were conducted in English or Spanish at the request of the respondent.