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Poll: Pennsylvanians oppose repealing Affordable Care Act, favor expanding Medicaid

| Thursday, Oct. 31, 2013, 12:33 a.m.

HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania voters oppose repeal of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, by a 50-40 percent margin, a statewide poll shows.

The poll of 628 registered voters by Franklin & Marshall College found substantial support for Medicaid expansion, which the law allowed as a choice for states in a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court ruling. Those surveyed favor providing Medicaid coverage to poor, uninsured people by almost two-thirds.

The support for President Obama's signature health care plan occurs despite an online launch of the federal insurance marketplace on Oct. 1 that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius acknowledged has performed “miserably,” frustrating millions of Americans trying to sign up at HealthCare.gov. Sebelius on Wednesday apologized for problems at a House committee hearing in Washington.

The poll, conducted Oct. 22-27, has an error margin of 3.9 percentage points. Poll director G. Terry Madonna said it was “weighted” in an effort to approximate voter registration: 50 percent of respondents were Democrats, 37 percent Republicans and 13 percent independent or listed as “other.”

Asked why people might favor Obamacare despite its problematic start, Madonna said knowledge about the law is relatively low — 40 percent said they know “only a little” — and only 13 percent signed up for insurance or attempted to do so.

“Most Pennsylvanians have insurance,” Madonna said.

Frances Miller, 84, a widow in the Waynesboro area, gets health insurance through her late husband's company for a small co-pay. A Republican, Miller said she believes Congress should repeal the law.

“In general, I thought it was not thought-out well enough,” she said. “It's totally ridiculous.”

A plurality of voters believes Obamacare will make the health care system better: The poll found a 47-41 percent breakdown on that question. Two percent said it won't make a difference, and 12 percent said they didn't know.

The poll revealed that 72 percent of those questioned agree with the concept of Republican Gov. Tom Corbett's Medicaid expansion plan. The question asked of voters wasn't identified as Corbett's plan, but it tracks his proposal to use federal money to buy private insurance for the uninsured. It would require enrollees to pay a monthly premium and prove they are trying to get a job or are in job training.

About 18 percent oppose the idea; 10 percent said they didn't know.

“It's a political plus for Corbett,” Madonna said.

Corbett has been beset by poor polling numbers. This poll showed fewer than one in five voters thinks Corbett is doing an “excellent” or “good” job as governor.

But Victor Zeni, 58, of Monongahela said he opposes Medicaid expansion.

“They keep expanding the government,” said Zeni, a paving contractor. “It's like a spider web.”

“I'm on the fence about it,” Cynthia Ice, a registered nurse recovering from a liver transplant, said about Obamacare. Ice, 48, of Mount Morris in Greene County, said she's covered by Medicaid and Medicare. Most low-income people don't have computers to sign up, and “many won't be available to afford it,” Ice said.

Brad Bumsted is Trib Total Media's state Capitol reporter. Reach him at 717-787-1405 and bbumsted@tribweb.com. The Associated Press contributed.

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