- The Washington Times - Monday, September 16, 2013

More than half of the American public holds a negative view of the new health care law, even though many do not fully understand how it will affect them and even fewer want lawmakers to help it fail, new polling shows.

Surveys released Monday offer a complex portrait of how people feel about the Affordable Care Act, an overhaul of the troubled American health care system that has become the focal point of fiscal fights in Washington.

Congressional Republicans are leaning on populist distaste for the law as they prep their last bid to dismantle Obamacare as part of a deal to fund the government past Sept. 30 or to raise the national debt ceiling, although Democrats say President Obama’s signature domestic achievement is not on the negotiating table.

A survey from the Pew Research Center and USA Today said 53 percent of Americans disapprove of the health care law, while 42 percent approve, meaning “opinions are now as negative as they have been any point since the bill’s passage.”

The survey found that only a quarter of those surveyed have a very good grasp of how the law will affect them.

The poll of 1,506 adults, taken Sept. 4 to 8, has a margin for error of 3 percentage points.

A second survey, from NBC News and The Wall Street Journal, said 30 percent of respondents think the health care law will have a negative impact on their families, while 12 percent think it will be positive and 53 percent said it will not impact them one way or another.

The telephone survey of 1,000 adults was conducted Sept. 5 to 8 and has a margin for error of 3.1 percentage points.

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill find themselves at an unusual crossroads — either defending or decrying a law that hasn’t even taken root and that few truly understand.

“From its inception, the administration has had difficulty explaining the provisions of the [law],” said I. Glenn Cohen, a health-policy specialist at Harvard Law School. “I do think, though, if it stays the course, that in 30 years this will be like Medicare, a controversial initiative that was not much loved or understood but has now become a cherished element of America’s social safety net, for better or worse.”

Roughly half of the Pew respondents who disapprove of the law — 27 percent of all respondents — thought lawmakers “should do what they can to make the law work as well as possible,” while the other half, or 23 percent overall, said they should do what they can to make it fail.

In two weeks, Americans without employer-based coverage will begin to enroll on state-based insurance markets, where they will shop for coverage, often with the help of income-based government subsidies.

Then, in January, half of the states are slated to expand Medicaid enrollment with the help of new federal funding.

But hard-line conservatives on Capitol Hill, backed by political advocacy groups such as the Club for Growth and Heritage Action, want to thwart the law before Americans get a taste of it.

Senate Republicans have tied their opposition to the law into debate over an energy bill under consideration this week. They’ve filed six amendments that would mirror votes in the Republican-led House that would delay or disrupt the law, or prevent the Obama administration from handing out dispensations from the law to members of Congress or labor unions.

Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, argued Friday that few people want Congress to put its work agenda on hold to take down the health care law.

“What’s going on here — and I’ve never seen anything quite like this — is, this small few who represent maybe 5 percent of the electorate dictate what’s going on, hold the country by the neck and paralyze things,” he said. “The good news is, we do have elections. And if they succeed in their platform, they will fail the way Mitt Romney failed.”