By Jilian Mincer and Chris Kahn
NEW YORK (Reuters) - As Republican and Democratic lawmakers clash over the future of Obamacare, Americans largely are eager for a bipartisan solution to its shortcomings, according to a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll released on Thursday.
The Oct. 14-23 poll found that 62 percent of Americans want former President Barack Obama's healthcare law to be maintained, up from 54 percent in a January poll. About half – including 51 percent of Democrats and 56 percent of Republicans – want "a bipartisan group" rather than just members of their own parties to improve the healthcare system.
"It's not enough just to rip up the law," said Tim Lukasek, 45, who has insurance provided by his employer in St. Louis but likes a feature of Obamacare that allows him to cover his young adult children under his insurance policy. Lukasek described himself as more likely to vote Democrat.
"It should be a bipartisan mix of people hashing this out, and then everyone needs to agree on it," he said.
Republican lawmakers have repeatedly tried to repeal the Affordable Care Act since it became law in 2010, saying it represents government overreach into personal healthcare decisions and drives up prices for consumers.
More than 20 million Americans have obtained medical coverage under Obamacare, and Democrats warn that killing the law would cut many of them off from insurance.
President Donald Trump, who had promised during his 2016 election campaign to repeal and replace Obamacare and has vowed to let the law implode, this month terminated subsidies paid to health insurers that help cover medical expenses for low-income Americans.
Senator Lamar Alexander, a Republican, and Senator Patty Murray, a Democrat, have proposed a short-term fix to restore the subsidies for two years to stabilize the individual insurance markets created by Obamacare until a longer-term replacement can be negotiated.
"There are a lot of issues, but I think (the politicians) should just put their differences aside and think about what's better for everyone else in the country," said Kadee Matthew, a veterinary technician who lives outside of Birmingham, Alabama, and identifies as a moderate Republican.
Poll participants were split over who would do a better job at the repairs. Democrats were more likely to say the federal government, while Republicans were more likely to prefer that U.S. states take the lead.
The majority of those surveyed believe the law has been successful at "expanding health insurance coverage in the U.S." Responses were split along party lines, with most Democrats saying it was successful and most Republicans saying it was not.
"It was working until now, but a lot of rocks are being thrown at it," said Catherine Evans, a stay-at-home mom in Silver Spring, Maryland, who said she is more likely to vote Democratic.
She noted Trump's decision to cut off billions of dollars in subsidy payments to insurers. Insurers have raised monthly premium costs for the most popular Obamacare plans by 34 percent, on average, for 2018, according to an analysis by Avalere Health.
A majority of adults – 56 percent – said they opposed Trump's decision on subsidies, versus 29 percent who supported it.
Evans said she would like to see both political parties work together to stabilize the insurance market, but "I don't think right now they are capable of that. The way they are behaving is so childish and petty. It's ridiculous."
Healthcare experts say that Trump's moves to undermine the law and statements declaring Obamacare as "dead" have created confusion among consumers who were planning to enroll, beginning next week, in health coverage for 2018.
Among the people surveyed by Reuters/Ipsos, 11 percent said they believed that Obamacare had ended, versus 67 percent who said the program was "still operating."
The Reuters/Ipsos poll was conducted online in English throughout the United States. Some of the poll questions ran longer than others, gathering between 3,865 and 1,545 responses each.
The poll has a credibility interval, a measure of accuracy, of 3 percentage points for the entire sample, 4 percentage points for responses from Democrats and 5 percentage points for responses from Republicans.
(Reporting by Jilian Mincer and Chris Kahn; Editing by Michele Gershberg and Leslie Adler)