During his Tuesday State of the Union speech, President Obama touted the benefits of his health care law, but a new poll finds that the program is becoming increasingly unpopular among the uninsured -- the very group it was intended to benefit the most.
According to the January version of the monthly tracking poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation, just 24 percent of uninsured adults under 65 have a favorable view of the health care law, while 47 percent, or nearly double, have an unfavorable view. In April 2010, the same survey taken weeks after Obama signed the health care legislation into law, 50 percent had a favorable view, compared to 27 percent had an unfavorable view. On a net basis, that's a 46-point drop in favorability.
Ratings of the health care law have tumbled since the botched rollout of the program's health exchanges last October, but in January, they took an especially substantial plunge among the uninsured (with favorability dropping 12 points). The magnitude of the drop could be chalked up to statistical quirk that may be corrected in next month's poll. On the other hand, it could be an indication that for many uninsured, the reality of the law is not living up to the promise.
Uninsured Americans who were expecting to get cheap coverage on the exchanges may have been surprised to learn that the plans being offered can be expensive, even after subsidies. And the cheaper plans come with high deductibles and fewer choices of doctors and hospitals. Additionally, those struggling to find affordable coverage will now be subject to a penalty if they don't purchase a plan by March 31.
Needless to say, if this trend proves to be more than statistical noise in one poll, it's incredibly problematic for Democrats. Their strategy for overcoming the backlash against the health care law is about going on offense by touting the benefits of the program to uninsured Americans. But if the uninsured are souring on the law to such an extreme degree, it will become a much tougher sell.
For more data on how the law has polled among various groups over time, check out the interactive Kaiser graph embedded in this post.