Over the first year of the law's life, public opinion has not changed significantly, with more Americans, especially Republicans, still disapproving than favoring it. Yet 55 percent oppose the Republican idea of cutting off funding for it, compared with 35 percent in favor, according to a recent CBS News poll.
"There's a lot of skepticism, and you can't answer it because it won't be until 2015 that we'll even know what the major effects will be." — Robert Blendon
"There's confusion," says Blendon, attributing this mostly to the law's main provisions not going into effect for several more years. "Medicare was in effect one year after it was enacted. So you could like Medicare or not, but a year later it was running, doctors were being paid and millions of people had access — it was a reality in life." But people who oppose the health reform law "are worried about its future impact," he adds. "There's a lot of skepticism, and you can't answer it because it won't be until 2015 that we'll even know what the major effects will be."
Before then, the law's ultimate fate could be decided by two events — the 2012 general election and, even earlier, the Supreme Court's ruling on the act's constitutionality. Blendon predicts that if the court holds that the requirement for everybody to have insurance is unconstitutional but allows the rest of the law to stand, Americans will remain strongly divided. But if there's a clear vote — better than a 5-4 split — upholding the constitutionality of the whole law, "then I think it would shift the weight of opinion closer to the president."
Patricia Barry is a senior editor at the AARP Bulletin.