The U.S. Supreme Court's decision that President Obama's health care law is constitutional keeps it alive for now. But it's important to remember that the law has already lost in the court of public opinion. The Supreme Court ruling is a temporary reprieve more than anything else.
In March, I wrote that the health care law was doomed even if it survived the court. Looking at the data today, it's hard to draw any other conclusion.
Fifty-four percent of voters nationwide still want to see the law repealed. That's going to be a heavy burden for the Obama campaign to bear.
It's hard to believe that public opinion will change between now and Election Day because opinion on the law hasn't budged in two years. In fact, support for repeal now is exactly the same as it was when the law first passed.
Consistently, for the past two years, most voters have expressed the view that the law will hurt the quality of care, increase the cost of care and increase the federal deficit.
As a result, the fact that the law remains in place may end up hurting the president's chances for re-election more than helping them. It gives Mitt Romney another easy target and one that can be tied directly into concerns about the economy.
If Romney wins, there is virtually no chance the existing health care law will survive.
If the president is re-elected, the law has a better chance of surviving, but it would still face an uphill struggle. Legislative battles to protect the law would most likely dominate his second term.
To understand why, keep in mind that most Americans initially supported the concept of health care reform because they wanted the cost of care to be reduced. But only 18 percent believe the current law will accomplish that goal. A massive 81 percent also believe it will end up costing the government more than projected.
The president believes that government regulation can control the cost of care, but most voters disagree. Voters think that consumer choice and competition between insurance companies will do more to reduce costs than additional regulations.
Individual Americans recognize that they have more power as consumers than they do as voters. Their choices in a free market give them more control over the economic world than choosing one politician or another.
Seventy-six percent think they should have the right to choose between expensive insurance plans with low deductibles and low-cost plans with higher deductibles. A similar majority believes everyone should be allowed to choose between expensive plans that cover just about every imaginable medical procedure and lower-cost plans that cover a smaller number of procedures. All such choices would be banned under the current health care law.
Americans want to be empowered as health care consumers. They don't want the government telling them what to do.
The president and his colleagues in Congress thought the battle for their health care plan ended in March 2010. Romney and many Republicans thought it might end in the Supreme Court before Election 2012 really took off.
Now, we recognize that the battle for the president's health care plan is just beginning.
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