Despite Republican efforts, ACA popularity reaches new high

Popularity alone, however, won't necessarily shield the health care from assorted threats. Republican plans against the ACA continue apace.
Image: Pedro Rojas holds a sign directing people to an insurance company where they can sign up for the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare
A sign directs people to an insurance company where they can sign up for the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, in Miami, Florida, in 2015.Joe Raedle / Getty Images file

At a campaign rally this week, Donald Trump set aside some time to talk about the Affordable Care Act, telling supporters, "We're managing it incredibly."

Why would the Republican president who's trying to tear down the ACA take credit for its implementation? It may have something to do with the health care reform law's increasing popularity. The L.A. Times' Michael Hiltzik explained this morning:

To paraphrase Joni Mitchell, you often don't know what you've got till it's threatened. That may partially explain a new finding that the Affordable Care Act is more popular than ever. The result comes from the latest monthly tracking poll on healthcare issues by the Kaiser Family Foundation, taken in mid-February and released Friday.

For reform advocates, the poll was unexpectedly encouraging: the ACA's favorability rating has climbed to 55%. The Kaiser Family Foundation has been doing these monthly tracking polls for a full decade -- which makes apples-to-apples comparisons easier -- and "Obamacare" has never been more popular than it is right now.

The law unfavorable rating, meanwhile, stands at 37%. There was a point in 2011 when these numbers were effectively reversed, which goes to show that those who predicted the ACA would gain public acceptance in time were correct.

Popularity alone, however, won't necessarily shield the health care from assorted threats. There's an ongoing federal lawsuit -- filed by Republican attorneys general and backed by the Trump administration -- that's trying to tear down the Affordable Care Act in its entirety.

And while the fate of the litigation is uncertain, it's not the only hazard on the horizon. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said last year that if Republicans fare well in the 2020 elections, "I can promise you ... we're going to repeal Obamacare." House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) echoed the message, emphasizing that ACA repeal remains a Republican priority.

The fact that the health care law is both effective and popular appears to be an inconvenient detail for which its conservative opponents have no use.