However the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the Affordable Care Act, most Americans will be disappointed. A new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows Americans dislike the health care reform law (52 percent) almost as much as they dislike the current health care system (56 percent).
Three-quarters of the respondents in a related poll conducted by AP-GfK favor starting over, an unlikely prospect between now and the November election and — depending on who wins the presidency and controls Congress next year— into the foreseeable future
The Washington Post story about the poll says voter views on health care are locked in, leaving President Obama, whose name and political reputation are affixed to the Affordable Care Act, in an awkward political position. But Mitt Romney and Republicans aren't much better off, with even higher discontent for the status quo and no real viable alternative in sight.
Romney and others argue that states should decide health care policy, with little federal interference. While some states might pursue that responsibility seriously, others may not, resulting in a patchwork health insurance and delivery system nationwide. For multi-state employers and people whose work takes them to different parts of the country, that isn't a very satisfying response.
On the other extreme, turning to a government-sponsored health care system doesn't seem like a good cultural fit for Americans. Few even acknowledge it as a credible option here, despite it working in many European countries.
Employers are the biggest non-government purchaser of health care benefits, but they face intensifying cost pressures, including from steeply rising health insurance premiums. Many employers simply don't offer health insurance to their workers; some that do wished they didn't. Each annual increase brings another excruciating round of cost-sharing with employees, who must pay higher co-payments for procedures and prescriptions.
Public health clinics, which provide the safety net for many uninsured, lower-income people, are being squeezed by budget cuts at the state and federal levels. Most lack the facilities and staff to handle a much larger population.
So, if the government shouldn't manage the health care system, individuals cannot be required to obtain health insurance and employers want out, what options are left? Good question. Recent polls don't answer that question.
The public thirst for something better in many ways makes the Supreme Court ruling interesting, but just another milepost on a longer road to health care reform that Americans really want and will embrace.