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Public opinion on health care law rises

By RICARDO ALONSO-ZALDIVAR and JENNIFER AGIESTA
January 16, 2011

In this March 27, 2010, file photo Virginia Paiva, of Providence, protests against the health care reform bill recently signed into law by President Barack Obama during a rally in front of the Statehouse in Providence, R.I. Ahead of a vote on repeal in the GOP-led House the week of Jan. 16, 2011, strong opposition to the law stands at 30 percent, close to the lowest level registered in AP-GfK surveys dating to September 2009. The nation is divided over the law, but the strength and intensity of the opposition appear diminished. (AP Photo/Gretchen Ertl, File)

As lawmakers shaken by the shooting of a colleague return to the health care debate, an Associated Press-GfK poll finds raw feelings over President Barack Obama’s overhaul have subsided.

Ahead of a vote on repeal in the GOP-led House this week, strong opposition to the law stands at 30 percent, close to the lowest level registered in AP-GfK surveys dating to September 2009.

The nation is divided over the law, but the strength and intensity of the opposition appear diminished. The law expands coverage to more than 30 million uninsured, and would require, for the first time, that most people in the United States carry health insurance.

The poll finds that 40 percent of those surveyed said they support the law, while 41 percent oppose it. Just after the November congressional elections, opposition stood at 47 percent and support was 38 percent.

As for repeal, only about one in four say they want to do away with the law completely. Among Republicans support for repeal has dropped sharply, from 61 percent after the elections to 49 percent now.

Also, 43 percent say they want the law changed so it does more to re-engineer the health care system. Fewer than one in five say it should be left as it is.

“Overall, it didn’t go as far as I would have liked,” said Joshua Smith, 46, a sales consultant to manufacturers who lives in Herndon, Va. “In a perfect world, I’d like to see them change it to make it more encompassing, but judging by how hard it was to get it passed, they had to take whatever they could get.”

His extended family has benefited from the law. A sister-in-law in her early 20s, previously uninsured, was able to get on her father’s policy. “She’s starting out as a real estate agent, and there’s no health care for that,” said Smith. The law allows young adults to stay on a parent’s plan until they turn 26.

Congress stepped back last week to honor victims of the rampage in Tucson, Ariz., that left Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., facing a long and uncertain recovery from a bullet through her brain.

There’s no evidence the gunman who targeted Giffords was motivated by politics, but the aftermath left many people concerned about the venom in public life. A conservative Democrat, Giffords had been harshly criticized for voting in favor of the health overhaul, and won re-election by a narrow margin.

House Republican leaders say they’re working to keep this week’s debate — and expected vote Wednesday — from degenerating into a shouting match, but it depends on the Democrats, too. Republicans want a thoughtful discussion about substantive policy differences, said Brad Dayspring, a spokesman for Rep. Eric Cantor, the No. 2 GOP leader. The AP-GfK poll was under way when the attack in Tucson took place Jan. 8.

Opposition to the law remains strongest among Republicans. Seventy-one percent of them say they’re against it, as compared with 35 percent of independents and 19 percent of Democrats. Republicans won back control of the House partly on a promise to repeal what they dismissively term as “Obamacare.”

“I just think that the liberal left is more going for socialized medicine, and I don’t think that works well,” said Earl Ray Fye, 66, a farmer from Pennsylvania Furnace, Pa., and a conservative Republican. “It just costs too much. This country better get concerned about getting more conservative.”

One of the major Republican criticisms of the law found wide acceptance in the poll, suggesting a vulnerability that GOP politicians can continue to press.

Nearly six in 10 oppose the law’s requirement that people carry health insurance except in cases of financial hardship. Starting in 2014, people will have to show that they’re covered either through an employer, a government program, or under their own plan.

Rich Johnson, 34, an unemployed laborer from Caledonia, Wis., said he thinks the heart of the law is good. “The problem I have with it is mandating insurance so that you have to have it or you’ll get fines,” said Johnson, an independent. “I just don’t think people should be forced to have it. The rest of it, I have no problem with.”

The individual mandate started out as a Republican idea during an earlier health care debate in the 1990s. More recently, Massachusetts enacted such a requirement under GOP Gov. Mitt Romney and the Democratic Legislature. Nowadays, most conservatives are against it, and GOP state attorneys general are suing to have the mandate overturned as unconstitutional.

Other major provisions of the law, including a requirement that insurers accept people with pre-existing medical conditions, got support from half or more of the public in the poll.

Loralyn Conover, 42 a former music teacher with multiple sclerosis, says she hopes repeal goes nowhere. Senate Democrats say they’ll block it.

The new law “opens the door for people like me to have some kind of pay-as-you-go health insurance,” said Conover, of Albuquerque, N.M. “It’s nice to be able to have something . and not be dropped in the cracks of society.” She couldn’t get health insurance when she was first diagnosed, but is now covered by Medicare.

The AP-GfK Poll was conducted Jan. 5-10 by GfK Roper Public Affairs and Corporate Communications. It involved landline and cell phone interviews with 1,001 adults nationwide, and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4.2 percentage points.

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Associated Press writers Michele Salcedo, Bradley Klapper and Douglass K. Daniel contributed to this report.

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Online:

Poll questions and results: http://www.ap-gfkpoll.com

Copyright © 2011 The Associated Press

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4 Responses to Public opinion on health care law rises

  1. Pondering It All

    January 17, 2011 at 10:09 pm

    The part of the bill that most Republicans object to is the “Obama” part! Nobody called for armed revolt when Romney created an almost identical HCR program in his state. THAT’s how you can tell the agitation over HCR is manufactured for partisan purposes.

    The most objectionable provision for Republicans and Tea Baggers is the Individual Mandate, but the IM was a Republican idea: The Democrats wanted an Employer Mandate, but the Republicans objected and countered with the Individual Mandate, seeing as how they are all for individual responsibility.

    Aside from the Republican IM, most people actually like the rest of the provisions but some have been taken in by the right-wing chattering class’s claims that it will all cost too much, in spite of the fact that the non-partisan CBO says it will actually save us billions of dollars. Don’t confuse them with facts, they JUST KNOW it has to be bad because it is OBAMACARE!

    • Almandine

      January 17, 2011 at 10:22 pm

      Actually, you’ve gotten part of it entirely wrong. IT will not save us anything… as CBO estimates indicate that it will cost an additional $540B this decade alone. All the NON-HEALTHCARE tax increases built into the Affordability Act will supposedly bring in $720B or so during that period, so that after subtracting the cost of administering the health insurance reform program, it will result in a $123B or so net positive difference. That’s hardly a situation in which Obamacare “saves” us billions of dollars.

      So, they JUST KNOW somebody’s gonna pay for it… and they know exactly who.

      BTW – the difference between Massachusetts and the Federal govt in terms of such mandates is that states have the legal authority to enforce such laws under the constitution, while the Fed govt does not.

  2. paulb6

    January 18, 2011 at 7:44 am

    With the multiple exemptions given to unions, and Silibus giving an additional 212 exemptions we are the ones as usual paying for the entire mess. Democrats love to vote for these things and always charge/loot the middle class for the payment. Watch what happens if it isn’t at least modifyed completely to make everyone pay, only then will we have a fair system.

  3. woody188

    January 18, 2011 at 10:27 am

    My experience thus far with this insurance reform law, we had two people sign up their “adult children” to be on their plans. When they found out the cost, they had me drop the coverage immediately. I guess they thought adding their “adult children” would be free since the government required it. Lucky for them our insurer was understanding about it. I guess their kids will be on their own to get coverage in 2014.

    This insurance reform law will be the end of employer sponsored health care. It will be cheaper for companies to drop coverage and take the fine, forcing their employees onto the government pools rather than continue offering coverage for them. And employees will want to get on the government plans because the government plans to tax their employer plans as income.

    End result, no more company insurance, which is why business and corporate media are promoting it as a good thing when really it is shifting the costs from employers to employees, just like the pension versus the 401(k) in retirement. That’s why a 1,000+ page bill was passed into law. Corporations wanted it, and they have vast pools of “free speech” to throw into lobbying efforts to get it.

    A real health care law would have dealt with the spiraling costs. I just paid $5,000 for a CT scan, which used to cost less than $2,000 4 years ago. I should have put that $5,000 down on a $70,000 CT machine and leased it out to a clinic. I’d have made my money back in a week at those rates. Indeed, a real health care law would deal with health care, and not health care insurance.