WASHINGTON - Attacked as a rationing scheme and praised as a lifesaver, President Obama's health care law remains as divisive and confusing as ever. But a new poll finds Americans are less worried that the overhaul will undermine their own care.
As the Supreme Court prepares to hear arguments on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, the Associated Press-GfK poll shows that Americans are less concerned their own personal health care will suffer as a result of it.
Shortly after the law passed in 2010, nearly half - 47 percent - said they expected the quality of their care to worsen. Now just 32 percent say that is their worry.
Most of the law's major changes have yet to take effect, and dire predictions - of lost jobs, soaring premiums, and long waits to see the doctor - have not materialized. Provisions that have gone into effect, including extended coverage for young adults on their parents' insurance and relief for seniors with high prescription costs, only had a modest impact on health care spending.
Lee Sisson, 63, a semiretired businessman from Winter Haven, Fla., says he figures that he might be better off personally as a result of the overhaul. For example, it would limit how much health insurance companies can charge older adults. But self-interest hasn't made Sisson a supporter.
"As a guy that's semiretired, the law would probably benefit me, and I'm still against it because it's not good for our country,'' said Sisson. He said he is concerned about the cost of new government programs getting passed on to future generations.
Most of the drop in people saying they believe their care will worsen actually comes from those like Sisson, who are opposed to it.
Of the law's opponents, 55 percent now say their care will worsen. But in April 2010, soon after the law passed, that share was 67 percent.
Overall, half of Americans say they do not think the quality of their care will change, while 14 percent expect it to improve.
The health care debate may be getting less edgy, but it is unclear how much it will help Obama and Democrats heading into a contentious 2012 election season. Americans remain cool to the major domestic accomplishment of the president's first term, even if they like some of the law's provisions.
The poll found that 35 percent of Americans support the health care law overhaul, while 47 percent oppose it. That is about the same split as when it passed. Then, 39 percent supported it and 50 percent opposed it.
Opposition remains strongest among seniors, many of whom object that Medicare cuts were used to help finance coverage for younger uninsured people.
Only about 3 in 10 say they understand the law extremely or very well.