Patients Value Obamacare More Than General Public and Oppose Its Repeal, Survey Says

Inês Martins, PhD avatar

by Inês Martins, PhD |

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People with chronic diseases value the Affordable Care Act (ACA), commonly known as Obamacare, more than Americans in general, a survey by PatientsLikeMe has found. They are also less likely to want Obamacare repealed, claiming that the ACA needs only minor modifications to improve it.

Expanding coverage for pre-existing conditions, holding insurance companies accountable, lowering healthcare costs, guaranteeing more choice, and enhancing the quality of care for everyone remain top priorities for the 133 million or so Americans living with chronic diseases.

“Regardless of your political leaning, the great equalizer is that we’ll all become sick one day,” Sally Okun, PatientsLikeMe’s vice president of advocacy, policy and patient safety, said in a news release. “At this time of uncertainty about the future of healthcare, listening to the voice of patients today will illuminate the path forward for all of us.”

With possible modifications to the ACA in sight, PatientsLikeMe disclosed results of its survey that evaluated healthcare law priorities from the perspective of chronic disease patients. The 19-question survey, conducted Jan. 23-27, polled 2,197 patients with diseases like multiple myeloma, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, Parkinson’s disease, major depressive disorder, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and type 2 diabetes, among others.

Responses were then compared to a December Kaiser Health Tracking poll that surveyed healthy individuals from the general population. Results showed that chronic disease patients have the same worries as others about healthcare costs. Yet they see benefits in Obamacare that their healthy neighbors may have disregarded:

  • 57 percent think Obamacare has helped those with chronic diseases.
  • 46 percent say that only minor changes are required to improve Obamacare.
  • Over the last year, respondents said their healthcare expenses have either remained the same (47 percent) or increased (43 percent). Lowering healthcare costs is a major priority for 94 percent of patients, and 93 percent of the general public.
  • Lowering prescription costs is a key priority for both patients (96 percent) and healthy individuals (89 percent).
  • Asked about repealing Obamacare, 46 percent of patients said it “should not be done,” compared to 31 percent of the general population.
  • Patients were four times more likely than healthy people to consider eliminating the individual mandate as opposed to other Obamacare components.
  • Patients were also six times more likely to say they would retain coverage for pre-existing conditions as opposed to other Obamacare components.

The biggest differences emerged when comparing the opinions of healthy individuals, non-condition-specific patients, and patients with major depressive disorder (MDD).

Oakum said people with MDD may have a stronger opinion about healthcare law since passage of the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA), a 2008 federal law that requires group health plans and health insurance issuers to provide coverage of mental health benefits that are no lower than the coverage limit for medical and surgical benefits.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) said that, before the law, “mental health treatment was typically covered at far lower levels in health insurance policies than physical illness.”