WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama celebrated when sign-ups for his health care law topped 8 million, far exceeding expectations after a slipshod launch. Most Americans, however, remain unimpressed.
A new Associated Press-GfK poll finds that public opinion continues to run deeply negative on the Affordable Care Act, Obama's signature effort to cover the uninsured. Forty-three percent oppose the law, compared with just 28 percent in support.
The pattern illustrates why the health care law remains a favored target for Republicans seeking a Senate majority in the midterm elections.
The poll does have a bright spot for the administration: Those who signed up for coverage aren't reeling from sticker shock. Most said they found premiums in line with what they expected, or even lower.
But even that was diminished by another finding: More than one-third of those who said they or someone in their household tried to enroll, were ultimately unable to do so. For the White House, it's an uncomfortable reminder of the technical problems that paralyzed the HealthCare.gov website for weeks after it went live last fall.
The example of business owner Henry Kulik shows some of the cross-currents of public opinion.
Kulik is disabled as a result of Lou Gehrig's disease, a condition that destroys the brain's ability to control muscle movement. His family runs several stores that sell ice cream and other summer refreshments in the Philadelphia area.
Kulik says he doesn't believe the federal government should require people to carry health insurance, as the law does. And he can understand worries about the cost to taxpayers. On the other hand, he's been able to slash what his family pays for health insurance by purchasing coverage through the law's new insurance markets and by taking advantage of tax credits to lower the premiums.
Before the law, his family was paying $2,400 a month. Now it's several hundred dollars. And Kulik says the insurance for himself, his wife, and three children is comparable to what they had before.
"I think there is a lot of misinformation," he says.
Obama's health care law offers subsidized private coverage to middle-class people who have no health plan on the job, and it expands Medicaid to pick up low-income uninsured adults. But last fall's launch of new health insurance markets was paralyzed technical problems. The debacle contributed to the departure of health secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
After Congress approved the law in 2010, a political backlash over its Medicare cuts, tax increases and new regulations helped Republicans win the House. This fall the GOP is following a similar strategy with the Senate at stake.