Poll finds vast majority of Massachusetts residents like Romneycare

Here and Now

About 62 percent of Massachusetts residents surveyed support the healthcare law that Mitt Romney approved five years ago, and just 33 percent oppose it, a new poll from WBUR Radio in Boston found.

The health plan, which has been derisively labeled Romneycare and been compared unfavorably to President Barack Obama’s healthcare plan by Romney’s Republican opponents, requires that every resident have health insurance or pay a fine. Rick Santorum even pronounced it an abject failure that has blown a hole in the Massachusetts economy.

But the latest findings say Republicans might be stretching the truth — at least in terming it a failure.

Martha Bebinger, WBUR health care reporter, said the poll’s findings are fairly consistent with how the law has been viewed basically since it was enacted.

“They like that it provides fairly universal coverage,” she said. “They like the sense that we are taking care of people, that we are managing care so people aren’t just going to emergency rooms when they need care because they’re very sick, because they have insurance.”

One of the reasons the law was introduced was because many uninsured were taxing the emergency rooms in the state — and the budgets — by using emergency rooms as a source of primary care.

Bebinger said the state’s also starting to see signs that it is working. Very slowly, she said, people are starting to go to doctors for care, rather than just heading to emergency rooms.

“It seems those patterns of where people go, how they take care of themselves, really take some time to shift,” Bebinger said.

As for those who dislike the law, they can be grouped in some broad categories: First, those whose health insurance premiums have gone up in a way or to a degree they don’t like; Second, those who are paying a fine because they refuse to buy health insurance; And third, people who object to government mandating they do something.

There are also some misperceptions, she said, about what the law does. And that may be due, in part, to the campaign messages that are filling the airwaves.

Bob Blendon, professor of health policy and political analysis at Harvard University, has seen similar results in polling he conducted. He said the prevailing conclusion that can be drawn from the poll is just the degree to which support has remained steady.

“Basically, the national debate going on on the Republican side has been so critical of the bill, you might have expected many in the state to say ‘Maybe there really is a problem here.’ And that isn’t what the most recent poll shows,” Blendon said. “There’s a larger number opposed, but it’s still 2-to-1 in favor.”

Blendon said the debate over healthcare nationally is so ideologically polarized nationally that it’s difficult to get anyone who doesn’t like the Obama healthcare plan to look at Massachusetts with any objectivity.

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