The Affordable Care Act, dubbed “Obama Care” by its detractors, has become the most controversial piece of legislation of the Obama administration.
Now its fate rests with the Supreme Court, which could strike down part or the entire law.
A recent CNN poll reported 50% of Americans disapprove of the law, while 45% supported it.
This was not always the case.
A Rasmussen poll taken in late June of 2009 found 51% of respondents favored the law, while 45% opposed it. Support quickly faded, however. By September, the polls showed more people opposed the law than favored it.
So what happened?
Prior to the law’s passage in March of 2010, a large majority of American’s supported the need to reform the health care system. In a Kaiser Health Care Tracking Poll conducted in June of 2009, 61% of the respondents believed it was necessary to reform the health care system immediately.
But the public had one important requirement. They wanted a bipartisan bill.
An October 2009 Quinnipiac Poll reported 57% of the public did not want Congress to pass a health care bill without the support of both parties of Congress.
This didn’t happen. The bill passed, but support of both parties did not happen.
With a Democratic House and Senate, and a Democratic President in the White House, the administration was able to get a bill passed despite the strong opposition of Republicans.
Democrats believed once the American public understood the bill they would come to support it.
There was justification for this belief. A November 2010 Kaiser Health Tracking Poll found a large majority of Americans liked many of the features of the law, even though roughly half of those surveyed favored repeal.
There were other warning sings beyond the need for bipartisan support, which indicated it would not be smooth sailing for the supporters of the Affordable Care Act.
When asked whether they were willing to pay more to increase the number of Americans with health insurance, 54% of respondents in the June 2009 Kaiser Tracking Poll said no.
Robert Blendon, Professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, may have had the most insightful observation. In a New York Times article dated September 5, 2009, Professor Blendon explained the public’s support for the Affordable Care Act followed a similar pattern to the one experienced by the Truman and Clinton administrations when they tried to reform the health care system. Initially, Americans supported the ideas proposed but disillusionment quickly set in. As Profession Blendon explained, the American public “distrusted the government and public support fell substantially as the debate wore on.”
Maybe if the Administration had achieved the bipartisan support it sought things would have turned out differently. Now we must wait for the Supreme Court to make its decision.