Tempers cool in health care debate

TEMPERS COOL IN HEALTH CARE DEBATE…. Hopes that the Affordable Care Act would become popular once it became law were largely misplaced. The fight didn’t stop once the legislative debate ended; opponents continued to invest in shaping public opinion well after the bill signing; and the sweeping reform law remains a contentious issue.

But while opposition remains high, it’s interesting to note that tempers have cooled.

As lawmakers shaken by the shooting of a colleague return to the health care debate, an Associated Press-GfK poll finds raw feelings over President Barack Obama’s overhaul have subsided.

Ahead of a vote on repeal in the GOP-led House this week, strong opposition to the law stands at 30 percent, close to the lowest level registered in AP-GfK surveys dating to September 2009.

The nation is divided over the law, but the strength and intensity of the opposition appear diminished.

The point isn’t that there’s been a marked shift, with opponents becoming supporters in large numbers. Support is higher, but only a little. The point, rather, is that the intensity of the opposition has faded.

And with that comes less support for the repeal push congressional Republicans are convinced the public wants. The poll found that only about one in four want to scrap the entirety of the law — a sentiment endorsed by nearly every GOP official — and even among rank-and-file Republicans, support for complete repeal has fallen from 61% a couple of months ago to 49% now.

Yep, not even a majority of Republicans now support the total repeal of the Democratic health care plan.

What’s more, the AP poll asked respondents which party they trust more to handle health care policy. It wasn’t even close — 49% prefer Democrats, while 37% back the GOP. Given that congressional Republicans are convinced their tactics reflect popular will, I’d love to hear GOP leaders explain why they trail Dems by double digits on this question.

And perhaps best of all, repeal has very limited support, but 43% of respondents in this poll want to expand, not retract, the reform “so it does more to re-engineer the health care system.”

This week, House Republicans will pass a repeal measure, assuming Americans agree with them. The evidence suggests otherwise.