- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 26, 2012

WASHINGTON (AP) - It still divides us, but most Americans think President Barack Obama’s health care law is here to stay.

More than 7 in 10 say the law will fully go into effect with some changes, ranging from minor to major alterations, a new Associated Press-GfK poll finds.

Only 12 percent expect the Affordable Care Act _ “Obamacare” to dismissive opponents _ to be repealed completely.

The law _ covering 30 million uninsured, requiring virtually every legal U.S. resident to carry health insurance and forbidding insurers from turning away the sick _ remains as contentious as the day it passed more than two years ago. There’s still more than another year before its major provisions go into effect on Jan. 1, 2014.

Although the overhaul survived a Supreme Court challenge in June, the November election appears likely to settle its fate. Republican Mitt Romney vows to begin repealing it on Day One while Obama pledges to carry it out faithfully.

But the poll found that Americans are converging on the idea that the overhaul will be part of their lives, although probably not down to its last comma. They don’t totally buy what either candidate is saying.

“People are sort of averaging out the candidates’ positions,” said Harvard School of Public Health professor Robert Blendon, who tracks polling on health care issues.

Forty-one percent said they expect the law to be fully implemented with minor changes, while 31 percent said they expect to see it take effect with major changes. Only 11 percent said they think it will be implemented as passed.

Americans also prefer that states have a strong say in carrying out the overhaul.

Sixty-three percent want states to run new health insurance markets called “exchanges.” Open for business in 2014, exchanges would sign up individuals and small businesses for taxpayer-subsidized private coverage. With GOP governors still on the sidelines, the federal government may wind up operating the exchanges in half or more of the states, an outcome only 32 percent of Americans want to see, according to the poll.

Developed with researchers from Stanford University and the University of Michigan, the poll also found an enduring generation gap, with people 65 and older most likely to oppose the bill and those younger than 45 less likely to be against it.

Republicans remain overwhelmingly opposed to the overhaul and in favor of repeal. But only 21 percent said they think that will actually come about.

Romney supporter Toni Gardner, 69, a retired school system nurse from Louisville, Ky., said that until a few weeks ago she was sure her candidate fully supported repeal, as she does.

But then Romney said in an interview there are a number of things he likes in the law that he would put into practice, including making sure that people with pre-existing medical problems can get coverage. The Romney campaign quickly qualified that, but the candidate’s statement still resonates.

“If Romney gets in, he’ll go with parts of it,” Gardner said, “and there are parts of that he won’t go with.”

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