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Public deeply divided over health care reform repeal

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When it comes to what should be done to the health care reform law, voters, just like Congress, are sharply divided along political lines.

Since the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in 2010, congressional Republicans have launched numerous drives — all unsuccessful — to repeal the law, which, among other things, mandates that all but the smallest employers offer coverage and provides billions of dollars in federal premium subsidies to the lower-income uninsured to obtain coverage in public exchanges.

Those repeal efforts clearly are backed by Republican voters. Sixty percent of individuals responding to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey, which was released last week, said the ACA should be repealed and then replaced with a Republican alternative.

By contrast, just 8% of Democratic respondents back repeal, while a majority — 54% — say Congress should work to improve the health care reform law.

That near total contrast — based on political affiliation — of voters on whether the ACA should remain law is not surprising, Kaiser executives and others say.

“Every time we have done such surveys they show how deep the partisan divides are,” said Liz Hamel, Kaiser director of public opinion and survey research in Menlo Park, California.

Lawmakers “are not ahead of their constituencies,” added Geoff Manville, a principal with Mercer L.L.C. in Washington.

Respondents, like lawmakers, also are divided based on their political affiliation on whether it is time to shift focus away from the health care reform law and move on to other issues.

For example, 59% of Democratic respondents said the country should focus more on other issues, and 38% said it is important for the country to continue the debate over the health care reform law.

On the other hand, far fewer Republican respondents — 40% — said the country's focus should shift away from the ACA, while 58% said it is important to continue the debate over the health care reform law.

That political split also exists in Congress as well, with most of the legislative initiatives to amend the law being led by Republicans, including the most recent unsuccessful attempt late last year that would have, among other things, repealed the ACA's mandate that employers offer coverage, or be hit with a still financial penalty.

Like many of the Kaiser survey respondents, especially Republicans responding to the Kaiser survey, employers want Congress to amend the health care reform law, benefit lobbyists say.

“There still is a lot Congress needs to do, including repealing the employer mandate, the excise tax” and certain reporting requirements, said Annette Guarisco Fildes, president and CEO of the ERISA Industry Committee in Washington.

The Kaiser survey was conducted last month, with just over 1,202 individuals responding.