In March, after months and months of wrangling on Capitol Hill, President Obama signed the landmark Health Care Act of 2010 that expands subsidized health care to millions of uninsured Americans and requires all legal residents to have health insurance or pay a fine. A number of state attorneys general -- all Republicans -- are challenging the law, saying the mandate is unconstitutional.
Many of those polled say Obama’s health care bill should only be a first step with more changes needed. This view is strongest among Latinos, blacks, Korean Americans and Chinese Americans.
Statewide, 52 percent of California voters generally support the new law and 30 percent strongly support it. While non-Hispanics whites in the state are evenly split about the new law, majorities of voters across five of the state’s other major ethnic populations are in favor of it.
Among California voters, the new law is supported by 59 percent of Latinos, 72 percent of African Americans, 59 percent of Chinese Americans, 63 percent of Korean Americans.
Even Vietnamese Americans, who vote heavily Republican, give the law 68 percent support.
Hy Lam, a board member of the Oakland-based Huong Viet Community Center, isn’t surprised by that finding.
“The community’s views are greatly influenced by family, friends and the church and temple,” he says.
“Ethnic voters have significantly greater insecurities about having and maintaining their health coverage than white-non-Hispanics,” adds the Field Poll’s director, Mark DiCamillo.
“This appears to trump party loyalties with regard to the Vietnamese-American voters,” he says.
DiCamillo notes the same poll also shows 39 percent of Vietnamese-American voters identified themselves as registered Republicans while just 24 percent are registered as Democrats.
According to the poll, just 34 percent of Californians feel the law is taking the country on the wrong path and should be reversed. A much larger number view the law as improving both the United States’ and California’s health care systems. Even so, only 25 percent of those surveyed believe that the law will benefit themselves or their families.
“When asked about their concerns about the health care system, non-Hispanic whites say they are most concerned about ’having to pay more out of pocket for their health care costs’ and this is something that was not directly addressed by the health care law,” says DiCamillo, noting: “It was mainly a law that sought to expand coverage. This is why many more non-Hispanics feel that the law that was passed is taking the country in the wrong direction and needs to be reversed.”
The health care bill is opposed by 37 percent of non-Hispanic whites, a higher rate than any other group opposed it.
Whites more than any other group, doubt the law will help control the rising costs of health care. Vietnamese Americans, Korean Americans and blacks overwhelmingly believe otherwise.
Majorities of Californians see the law as mainly benefiting low-income residents, the uninsured, children and young adults. They feel that more affluent residents, insurance companies, doctors and large and small businesses will be negatively impacted by the law.
Fifty percent of Asians, more than any other ethnic group, think a provision in the health care bill requiring all legal residents to have health insurance or be subject to a fine, is important. Overall, only 32 percent of voters feel that way.
At 33 percent, Latinos were the smallest proportion of minority voters who believe that the undocumented would fare better because of the law.
While a relatively large proportion of voters (40 percent) say they are not very knowledgeable of the specifics of the law, when read a number of its provisions voters consider many to be highly important.
For instance, more than seven in 10 rate the provisions below as extremely or very important:
* Prohibiting insurers from canceling a person’s coverage if they become sick or disabled, except in cases of fraud.
* Prohibiting insurers from denying coverage to children with pre-existing conditions. Blacks (90 percent) and Asians (87 percent) more than the other ethnic groups view this provision as very important.
* Providing workers with greater flexibility to change jobs and maintain their coverage.
Ethnic minorities were much more likely than whites to be concerned about not having, or losing their health coverage. That percentage was especially high among Vietnamese Americans, 94 percent of whom said they worried about losing their health coverage.
More than 80 percent of blacks, Latinos, and Chinese Americans worried about losing their health coverage. Sixty-nine percent of non-Hispanic whites and 67 percent of Korean Americans expressed similar concern.
Did they think that as a result of the new law health care conditions in California would get better, worse or not change?
Overall, 42 percent of voters say it will get better and 36 percent feels otherwise. A majority of Latinos (52 percent), blacks (64 percent) and Vietnamese Americans (60 percent) also feel optimistic, while only 41 percent of Chinese Americans, 36 percent of non-Hispanic whites and 31 percent of Korean-Americans think it will get better.
But among non-Hispanic whites, a greater proportion, 43 percent, are pessimistic about the future of California’s health care system than optimistic, 36 percent.
The poll also revealed a greater proportion of Latinos (26 percent) and Korean Americans (23 percent) have no health insurance than any other ethnic group. Overall, only 13 percent of voters are in a similar situation.
The survey, conducted between April 7 and April 27, interviewed 1,522 registered voters statewide in six languages – English, Mandarin, Spanish, Cantonese, Korean and Vietnamese. It was funded by The California Wellness Foundation.
The Field Poll also updated a number of trend measures about how Californians view the state’s health care system and compared the results with previous TCWF-Field Health Poll Surveys. For instance, more Californians now say they are satisfied (50 percent) than dissatisfied (42 percent) with California’s health care system. Last year, slightly more said they were dissatisfied (49 percent) than satisfied (45 percent).
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