While the Affordable Care Act exchanges have been struggling recently with news of insurers pulling out and premium rates showing hefty increases, a report from the Government Accountability Office shows that most enrollees have been satisfied with their plans.
This could be good news for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who has said she would build upon the ACA if elected. Her GOP opponent, Donald Trump, and other Republican leaders have vowed to repeal the law if they win the White House, although analysts say this would be difficult to implement because many people would lose coverage.
Data released Tuesday shows the ACA has achieved the highest rate of health insurance coverage in the country's history. But while Clinton and Democrats celebrated this news, Republicans are drawing attention to the number of exchanges that will have only one insurer offering plans as well as a separate GAO report finding the exchanges “remain vulnerable to fraud.”
President Barack Obama met with a group of health insurance executives Monday and sent out a letter to those offering exchange plans to reiterate the administration's support for the ACA.
Voters remain split on how they view the ACA in general. A Kaiser Family Foundation poll last month found 40% of respondents have a favorable view and 42% have an unfavorable view. The poll also found that voters tend to trust Clinton more than Trump on health issues.
The GAO report released Monday reviewed national surveys asking people about their coverage from 2014 to 2016. While there were some complaints, at least 65% of enrollees said they were satisfied overall, with some surveys finding satisfaction rates as high as 86%.
Enrollees were mostly happy with their choice of providers, but views on affordability were more mixed. About half generally said their plans were easily affordable, but cost was an oft-cited cause for dropping coverage, and in one survey 25% of respondents were dissatisfied with their premium amounts.
The surveys also showed that premiums, deductibles and copay amounts were the top factors consumers considered when choosing a plan.
Liz Hamel, director of public opinion and survey research for the Kaiser Family Foundation, which had surveys used in the GAO report, said that it's important to remember that the number of people enrolled in the ACA exchanges is a small portion of the electorate, so even strong opinions on their health plans aren't likely to have a large effect on election results.
Also, health issues haven't been at the top of voters' minds this election season, she said.
"We find that healthcare overall is not as big a factor in people voting for president as lots of other issues like terrorism, the economy” and candidates' personal characteristics, Hamel said.
The report cited the concerns of many experts and exchange navigators that enrollees had difficulty finding providers in their networks, which continue to get narrower. This may not be as much of a concern for consumers, however.
“While stakeholders have expressed concerns with these plans, consumers continue to enroll in them and indicate they are willing to choose a plan with a narrow network to reduce their premiums,” the report notes.