Just how unpopular is the Republican healthcare plan?
It’s more unpopular than any major piece of legislation in the last 30 years.
That means it is more unpopular than ClintonCare, more unpopular than ObamaCare, even more unpopular than the bank bailout.
Professor Christopher Warshaw of MIT compiled data on 14 key bills since 1990. None was less popular than the American Health Care Act (AHCA).
After averaging six different surveys together, he found just over 28 percent supported the GOP replacement for ObamaCare. Nearly 37 percent supported TARP, aka the bank bailout.
In the healthcare arena, 40 percent had supported the Clinton reforms, while about 45 percent backed the Affordable Care Act in 2009.
Of course, averages can obscure as well as illuminate. The highest level of support recorded for the AHCA, 34 percent in a Fox News poll, is only higher than one other measurement on any of the 14 pieces of legislation for which Warshaw located polling.
The lowest level of support for TrumpCare is a mere 17 percent, far lower than the support for any other major piece of legislation in decades.
Opposition to the GOP bill should not have come as a surprise. In poll after poll, only minorities favored repealing the Affordable Care Act.
In April, an ABC/Washington Post poll found only 37 percent of Americans, and just 32 percent of independents, wanted to “repeal and replace the federal healthcare law known as ObamaCare.”
Support for the ACA itself is on the rise, with Gallup finding 55 percent approving on the law in April, up from 42 percent in November.
Moreover, voters do not want ACA protections farmed out to states, as the House GOP bill mandates.
The ABC/Post poll asked, “…many health insurance plans have to include certain kinds of coverage, including preventive services, maternity and pediatric care, hospitalization and prescription drugs. Do you think this should be required in all states, or should individual states decide what if any minimum coverage should be provided?”
Only 33 percent agreed with the GOP directing that such decisions should be left to the states. Sixty-two percent wanted these requirements to be the same across the country.
Similarly, only 26 percent want the states to decide whether insurance companies could charge more, or refuse to cover, those with pre-existing conditions. Seventy percent want that requirement to apply to all states.
There’s little doubt that House Republicans stuck a collective thumb in the eye of the American people, defying not only public opinion, but also doctors, nurses, hospitals, the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association, indeed nearly everyone who knows anything about healthcare.
But is there an electoral consequence?
Not every vote on every piece of legislation carries electoral import.
But this bill has all the markings of one that could spell defeat for a number of Republicans.
Healthcare matters to people both as public policy and as lived experience. Moreover, a group of political scientists carefully analyzed the impact on Democrats of voting for ACA. Their finding: It cost Democratic congressional supporters of the ACA five to nine percentage points in 2010. And that bill was more popular than this one.
What should be particularly galling for Republican House members is that it’s all for naught.
While Democrats who supported the ACA sacrificed their political careers to improve the lives of tens of millions of their constituents, leaders forced rank-and-file Republicans to walk the plank and jump into shark-infested waters for a bill that has no chance of becoming law, just to provide President Trump, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and White House chief of staff Reince Priebus with a short- term talking point.
Senate GOPers made clear, even before the vote, that the House bill was stillborn. They’re not even going to consider it, but instead start from scratch, developing their own proposal, or perhaps simply allow repeal to whither.
But House Republicans will forever be branded as the ones who voted:
• To strip 24 million people of their health insurance
• To force those over 50 to pay higher rates
• To end protections for those with preexisting conditions
And that will exact a price.
Mellman is President of The Mellman Group and has helped elect 30 U.S. senators, 12 governors and dozens of House members. Mellman served as pollster to Senate Democratic leaders for over 20 years.