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Obamacare advocates warn Trump, GOP of political peril if 'sabotage' of health-care law continues

  • Eighty percent of voters disapprove of Congress' handling of health care.
  • Nearly the same percentage favors Trump and Congress taking steps to stabilize health insurance markets.
  • "There is a huge disconnect between what voters want to see happen now, and what they see President Trump as doing," said Geoff Garin of Hart Research.
President Donald Trump stands with House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis.
Jabin Botsford | The Washington Post | Getty Images
President Donald Trump stands with House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis.

President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans risk serious political peril if they do not take steps to shore up a key part of Obamacare, a leading health-care advocacy group warned Tuesday as it unveiled a new public opinion poll showing strong support for such steps.

"It is clear that Americans will blame the Trump administration and Republicans in Congress for any failure" with Obamacare, said Leslie Dach, chairman of the Protect Our Care Campaign.

A poll commissioned by that group showed that 61 percent of voters disapprove of how Trump is handling the issue of health care, while 80 percent of voters disapprove of how the GOP-led Congress is handling that issue.

The same poll found that 61 percent of voters said they believed Trump is trying to make Obamacare fail.

The poll, conducted by Hart Research, was released several days after the Trump administration said it would slash funding for Obamacare enrollment outreach this coming sign-up season by 90 percent.

And the survey comes a day before the start of hearings by the Senate Health Committee on a bipartisan bill that could end up guaranteeing crucial federal payments to insurers.

The payments currently reimburse insurers for discounts that they are mandated, by law, to offer most Obamacare customers for their out-of-pocket health costs.

Protect Our Care, along with a number of business groups and others have called on Congress to ensure the payments continue.

Dach noted Tuesday that if the payments end, Obamacare insurers would be expected to either exit the market or raise premiums by 20 percent or even more to make up for the lost funds.

Despite that, the staunch Obamacare opponent Trump has refused to guarantee that the so-called cost-sharing reduction payments will continue, even as many insurers ask for much higher premiums next year in part because of that uncertainty.

"President Trump continues to play politics with people's health care and continues his effort to sabotage the law," Dach said.

The Hart Research poll found that 78 percent of voters said they agreed with the idea of Trump and Republicans in Congress taking "necessary steps to make sure health insurance markets are stable," said Geoff Garin, president of the polling company.

The poll surveyed 1,017 people who voted in the 2016 presidential election, with 48 percent of the respondents having voted for Hillary Clinton, and 45 percent for Trump.

Garin said that a generic Democratic congressional candidate was found to beat a generic Republican candidate by 43 percent to 36 percent when voters were surveyed for the poll.

But that advantage increased for the Democrat when voters were asked how they would cast their ballot if the Democrat wanted to maintain Obamacare and fix its problems, while the Republican wanted to get rid of the law. In that scenario, the generic Democrat would win by 56 percent to 44 percent, Garin said.

"So the focus on the health issue is clearly detrimental" to Republicans, Garin said.

"As the Republicans and President Trump continue efforts to undermine the Affordable Care Act ... the political situation will become far more perilous and the efforts to undermine the ACA will be deeply unpopular," Garin said.

The poll found that if insurance premiums in the individual health plan market increase next year and that there are fewer insurers offering such plans, 83 percent said Republicans in Congress would bear some or much responsibility. And 71 percent said Trump would bear some or much responsibility if that happened.

"There is a huge disconnect between what voters want to see happen now, and what they see President Trump as doing," Garin said. "I think President Trump is under the delusion that he can blame all of this on President Obama. That is clearly not the case."