By Jonathan Ingram, Nic Horton and Josh Archambault – Mr. Ingram is Research Director, Mr. Horton is Policy Impact Specialist, and Mr. Archambault is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Government Accountability.
Last week, the Foundation for Government Accountability released a groundbreaking poll of voters in federal exchange states that provides valuable insight into how voters want policymakers to respond to the pending King v. Burwell Supreme Court ruling.
In short, voters don’t want their state legislators to rescue Obamacare should the Supreme Court rule that health insurance subsidies cannot flow through HealthCare.gov. They blame Congress for a poorly written law and don’t want or expect states to clean up Washington’s mess. In fact, they’re prepared to vote against state lawmakers who try to set up Obamacare exchanges.
Voters Don’t Want To Live in An Obamacare State
If the Supreme Court strikes down subsidies in federal exchange states, voters don’t want their state legislators to rescue Obamacare. They see the issues presented in the King v. Burwell case as a problem created by Congress and the IRS; they don’t think states should bail them out.
Obamacare supporters and special interest groups are already urging state legislators to establish exchanges, just in case the Supreme Court rules that the IRS has been illegally doling out taxpayer-funded subsidies in 34 states. But just 22 percent of those surveyed want states to set up Obamacare exchanges.
Most voters want their lawmakers to urge Congress to make changes to Obamacare. They want those changes to make the law better for everyone by providing families with more choices and greater flexibility.
Voters don’t want their states to bail out Congress or the Obama administration, and they’re prepared to vote against their state lawmakers the next time they’re up for re-election if they set up state exchanges. Half of all voters – and more than three-quarters of Republican voters – say they are less likely to re-elect state lawmakers who vote to establish Obamacare exchanges.
Messaging Opportunities for State Policymakers
Voters understand that setting up Obamacare exchanges will put states on the hook for the high operating costs to run those exchanges. They recognize that doing so will put more employers and individuals at the mercy of the IRS as it enforces more Obamacare mandates. And they’ve seen the disastrous rollouts other states have experienced in setting up those exchanges.
High operating costs
The most powerful reason voters give for opposing Obamacare exchanges is the fact that state taxpayers are responsible for their ongoing operating costs. A whopping 60 percent of all voters say this fact makes them less likely to support creating exchanges. This message is the most effective message with Republicans, split-ticket voters, and voters in the Northeast, South and West. It’s also the second-most effective message with Democrats and Midwest voters.
The second-strongest reason voters gave for opposing state Obamacare exchanges was the fact that doing so would subject more businesses to Obamacare’s onerous employer mandate. Roughly 57 percent of all voters say this fact makes them less likely to support creating state-funded Obamacare exchanges. This message is the strongest message among voters in the Midwest and the second-strongest message among Republicans, split-ticket voters, and voters in the South.
Voters are also less likely to support creating exchanges knowing that many exchanges had faced serious problems, that creating exchanges would subject more individuals to Obamacare mandates, and that it would undermine congressional efforts to repeal and replace the law.
Lawmakers Should Listen to Voters
Voters spoke loudly against Obamacare at the polls last November. It’s no surprise they don’t want their state legislators to entrench the law even further. Voters in the 34 federal exchange states have made one thing clear: they don’t want state legislators to set up Obamacare exchanges and are poised to punish lawmakers who ignore them. Here’s hoping those lawmakers listen to their constituents.
Results for FGA’s poll were based on live telephone interviews conducted among a multi-state sample of 1,564 adults who voted in the November 2014 general election. The multi-state sample was limited to voters in the 34 states that have not established health insurance exchanges. The surveys were conducted March 9-13, 2015. The margin of sampling error was plus or minus 2.48 percentage points.
This article originally appeared at Forbes on April 2, 2015.