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Poll: President's Healthcare Plan Remains Highly Unpopular as Implementation Looms

A majority of Americans say the impact on the system will be negative rather than positive.
NBC NEWS (Mark Murray) - A large number of Americans continue to adamantly oppose the nation’s new health-care law and believe it will produce damaging results, according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

Forty-four percent of respondents call the health-care law a bad idea, while 31 percent believe it's a good idea -- virtually unchanged from July's NBC/WSJ survey.

By a 45 percent to 23 percent margin, Americans say it will have a negative impact on the country's health-care system rather than a positive one. 

And 30 percent of respondents think it will have a negative impact on their families. Just 12 percent think it will be positive, and a majority -- 53 percent -- don't believe it will have an impact one way or another. 

Responses to an open-ended question in the poll about the law are especially revealing, showing little has changed in the public’s perception as the Obama administration races to meet implementation deadlines next month.

“We’re going to get worse health care, and it’s going to increase the debt,” said one Republican-leaning female from North Carolina. “There are death panels in there, and they’re going to decide whether people get treatment or not.”

Others remain confused about what's in it. “I don’t know personally how it’s going to affect me,” said another GOP-leaning opponent of the law from Ohio. 

Yet supporters tout its benefits and protections.

“It’s going to give people – who didn’t have [it] – insurance,” said a Minnesota Democrat. “It’s going to eliminate the pre-existing conditions… People who do have children will be able to stay on their parent’s insurance until the age of 26.” 

Still, most Americans say they don't have a good grasp of what the law entails. Thirty-four percent say they don’t understand the law very well, and another 35 percent say they understand it only “some.”

“Call any insurance company and ask them any question about the new health-care law, and they don’t understand,” said a New Jersey Republican man who opposes the law. 

That's compared with 30 percent who understand it either "very well" or "pretty well."

As it turns out, that 30 percent has more positive opinions about the health-care law (42 percent good idea, 45 percent bad idea), versus the 34 percent who don't understand it very well (17 percent good idea, 44 percent bad idea).

Yet a lack of information isn't the only hurdle that the Obama administration and its allies face in implementing the law. For one thing, a whopping 73 percent of respondents say they're already satisfied with their coverage. 

That’s why President Barack Obama, in his comments about the law’s implementation, argues that it ultimately won’t affect most Americans.

“For the 85 to 90 percent of Americans who already have health insurance, they’re already experiencing most of the benefits of the Affordable Care Act even if they don’t know it,” he said at an April 2013 news conference. “So all the implementation issues that are coming up are implementation issues related to that small group of people, 10 to 15 percent of Americans … who don’t have health insurance right now, or are on the individual market and are paying exorbitant amounts for coverage that isn’t that great.”

In addition, a majority of the poll’s respondents – 52 percent – believe the law will result in their health-care costs increasing.

“Raises costs for everybody and limits choices,” said a Republican-leaning male from Texas. “It was put together so crudely and nobody knew all the unintended consequences.” 

But supporters argue that – over time – the law will bring down health-care costs. “I think that the more people that are insured, the less expensive it will be for everyone,” said a Democratic New York female. 

Indeed, a recent Kaiser Family Foundation study of 17 states plus the District of Columbia found that rates in the health-care marketplaces – open to enrollment beginning on Oct. 1 – were lower than expected. 

The NBC/WSJ poll was conducted Sept. 5-8 of 1,000 adults (including 300 cell phone-only respondents), and it has an overall margin of error of plus-minus 3.1 percentage points. 

In their own words: Opinions for and against the health-care law

Respondents to the new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll were asked to answer an open-ended question about why they consider the new health care law to be a good or bad idea.  Here is a sample of their responses:

In opposition

It’s not going to lower the cost of premiums. We’re going to get worse healthcare, and it’s going to increase the debt. There are death panels in there, and they’re going to decide whether people get treatment or not. Which means they’re going to ration health care and that’s not right. And they’re putting taxes on it. People with unions are going to get taxed. It’s going to increase taxes. – North Carolina female (leans Republican)

I think with all the confusion, lots of confusion, people are probably going to have to pay more. And really, we don’t know enough about it yet. We don’t know, I don’t know personally how it’s going to affect me. – Ohio female (leans Republican)

I think we’re too worried about helping people who don’t want to help themselves. Basically I think we’re too worried about welfare and people should just go out and get jobs. I think people, our country is too worried about taking care of people who don’t want to take care of themselves. I think our country is too worried about helping other countries. We’re the first to jump in and offer money that we don’t have. That seems kind of silly to me. – Indiana male (not strong Republican)

From the things I hear about how the cost is going up and people cannot afford it. We are going to be paying for everyone else. Not very good. The fact that we really do not have a choice to elect it. Congress decided we are going to do it and I do not think that is fair. Because the people do not get to vote on it. If Congress decides what’s going to be what are we going to. Congress has their own plan. If they were on the same plan I would back it. – Delaware male (no party ID)

Because nobody understands. Call any insurance company and ask them any question about the new healthcare law and they don’t understand. Even one better, they point you to a website. Now I am not exactly a genius but I can speak, read and write English, but about 30 percent of the country can’t do that and I can’t understand the law and I would also like to say how does a foreigner walk into a hospital emergency room with no money, no Social Security number, and can get treated for free, where if I were to walk in as a US citizen, paying my fair share of federal, state and local taxes, along with contributing to society, when I walk into the hospital, if I can’t pay they throw me out. – New Jersey male (strong Republican)

I sell health insurance and I deal with these people every day and they are really upset. Some of them are going to lose their coverage, some of their premiums have gone up from 25 percent to 35 percent and some of them are not sure they will be covered as well as they have been. Well, I’m on Medicare and it’s gone up roughly 25 percent each year and the people I sell insurance to, theirs has gone up even more than that. I can’t even get close for some people because there are some insurance companies that are not doing business until after the first of October. – Illinois male (leans Republican)

Because it’s a big federal program and it’s going to be too expensive and it’s not going to work the way people want it to work. It’s a big old mess. – New York male (Strong Republican)

The very first thing is Nancy Pelosi said we would have to find out about it after we get it in as law. The expense is going to be enormous. As Sarah Palin said, there will be death committees. I’m 62 so I feel like I’ll be involved negatively by death committees. A lot of Congressmen and women who voted for it in Congress, left the year afterwards because they knew their own constituents would not vote for them but they did that anyway and I don’t understand. The unions in this country are for everything that Obama and the Democrats are, but they want to be exempted from the new healthcare law. Even the head of AFL-CIO. If it was a good idea, would he be doing that. I think not. – Tennessee male (strong Republican)

Raises costs for everybody and limits choices. It was put together so crudely and nobody knew all the unintended consequences. Rather than paying for Obamacare, companies are only giving 30 hours a week or not at all. – Texas male (leans Republican)

Because it’s just making more people dependent. It’s bankrupting our country, destroying the future of our young people, taking from the rich and giving to the poor, who aren’t willing to work for themselves. It’s going to cost everybody a lot more money, everyone who works for a living. – Texas female (strong Republican) 

In favor

There’s always an emergency, I work in a hospital. I’m a hospital employee so I see a lot and you have to have insurance when you have an emergency. Just security for your family because basically you need insurance to go to a hospital, everybody has emergencies. Those are the reasons, health reasons, sports reason, kids, I think kids are the worst, someone’s always going to fall. Children are in sports, one in football and one in soccer so I see a lot of hospital trips. Basically family oriented health needs. – Florida male (strong Democrat)

My best friend does not have health coverage and he has cancer. He can’t get coverage because he makes too much money. He can’t get coverage so he is going to die and nobody will help him. The new health care plan will help him, that’s huge for me. I have elderly parents, my mother is a senior citizen and health care does not help enough. The new plan will help them out. My son is 18, his insurance will end because he is not going to college. His insurance will last longer under the new plan. That’s pretty good. – Pennsylvania female (no party ID)

Preexisting conditions are out. Can’t be dropped from coverage. Cobra, kids on coverage at a later age. – California male (independent) 

Because health care is a right. That is it. It is a social necessity and it will be healthy for businesses. I just think it is one of the human rights, like education. It will level the playing field in some ways, everyone will be covered and that is it. And it makes economic sense for all employees to have health care. I would like to see a single payer healthcare system. That is it mostly. Nothing. – New Jersey female (strong Democrat)

Well, I mean it’s going to give people who didn’t have insurance. It’s going to eliminate the preexisting conditions. I don’t have children, but people who do have children will be able to stay on their parent’s insurance until the age of 26. In other words, they don’t have to go to school or to college without health care. – Minnesota male (strong Democrat)

People by nature are greedy and need things to keep them in check. I believe that it is a good idea. The insurance companies need regulation so everyone has access. People who are sick can get the care that they need and that cost is balanced by healthy people who are covered. People should not need to file bankruptcy because they are sick. – New Hampshire female (strong Democrat)

I think everybody should be insured. I think that the more people that are insured, the less expensive it will be for everyone. I just feel very strongly that everyone should have access to health care. I think that’s about it. – New York female (strong Democrat)

I could go on and on about this. I know too many people who have lost their homes because of being denied health care with preexisting conditions, and I can’t keep going on about this. The more I talk about this, the more it makes me mad. I’m finished with this. I’m going to have to let you go. – Oregon female (leans Democrat)

Because we have many people without insurance. I don’t know. That is it. I don’t think it will help me but I think it will help other people. – Georgia female (no party ID)

Well I just think that everybody should have access to good health care and it’s a step towards that. I think that a lot of employers are cheating the system by not providing workers health care or enough hours to get them health care. I also like the no preexisting conditions, it pulls in the loopholes that tightens the way they provide health care and making the medical records digital. – Georgia male (leans Democrat)

See attached file for complete poll information.
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