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Poll: Obamacare remains highly unpopular as implementation looms

A large number of Americans continue to adamantly oppose the nation’s new health-care law and believe it will produce damaging results, according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. 

Forty-four percent of respondents call the health-care law a bad idea, while 31 percent believe it's a good idea -- virtually unchanged from July's NBC/WSJ survey.

By a 45 percent to 23 percent margin, Americans say it will have a negative impact on the country's health-care system rather than a positive one. 

REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Attendees cheer at the Tea Party Patriots 'Exempt America from Obamacare' rally on the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, September 10, 2013.

And 30 percent of respondents think it will have a negative impact on their families. Just 12 percent think it will be positive and a majority -- 53 percent -- don't believe it will have an impact one way or another.

Responses to an open-ended question in the poll about the law are especially revealing, showing little has changed in the public’s perception as the Obama administration races to meet implementation deadlines next month.

“We’re going to get worse health care, and it’s going to increase the debt,” said one Republican-leaning female from North Carolina. “There are death panels in there, and they’re going to decide whether people get treatment or not.”

Others remain confused about what's in it. “I don’t know personally how it’s going to affect me,” said another GOP-leaning opponent of the law from Ohio.

In their own words: Opinions for and against the health-care law

Yet supporters tout its benefits and protections.

“It’s going to give people – who didn’t have [it] – insurance,” said a Minnesota Democrat. “It’s going to eliminate the pre-existing conditions… People who do have children will be able to stay on their parent’s insurance until the age of 26.”

Still, most Americans say they don't have a good grasp of what the law entails. Thirty-four percent say they don’t understand the law very well, and another 35 percent say they understand it only “some.”

“Call any insurance company and ask them any question about the new health-care law, and they don’t understand,” said a New Jersey Republican man who opposes the law.

That's compared with 30 percent who understand it either "very well" or "pretty well."

NBC's Domenico Montanaro looks at the upcoming – and familiar – congressional fights on government funding, the debt ceiling, and defunding Obamacare.

As it turns out, that 30 percent has more positive opinions about the health-care law (42 percent good idea, 45 percent bad idea), versus the 34 percent who don't understand it very well (17 percent good idea, 44 percent bad idea).

Yet a lack of information isn't the only hurdle that the Obama administration and its allies face in implementing the law. For one thing, a whopping 73 percent of respondents say they're already satisfied with their coverage.

That’s why President Barack Obama, in his comments about the law’s implementation, argues that it ultimately won’t affect most Americans.

“For the 85 to 90 percent of Americans who already have health insurance, they’re already experiencing most of the benefits of the Affordable Care Act even if they don’t know it,” he said at an April 2013 news conference. “So all the implementation issues that are coming up are implementation issues related to that small group of people, 10 to 15 percent of Americans … who don’t have health insurance right now, or are on the individual market and are paying exorbitant amounts for coverage that isn’t that great.”

In addition, a majority of the poll’s respondents – 52 percent – believe the law will result in their health-care costs increasing.

“Raises costs for everybody and limits choices,” said a Republican-leaning male from Texas. “It was put together so crudely and nobody knew all the unintended consequences.”

But supporters argue that – over time – the law will bring down health-care costs. “I think that the more people that are insured, the less expensive it will be for everyone,” said a Democratic New York female.

Indeed, a recent Kaiser Family Foundation study of 17 states plus the District of Columbia found that rates in the health-care marketplaces – open to enrollment beginning on Oct. 1 – were lower than expected.

The NBC/WSJ poll was conducted Sept. 5-8 of 1,000 adults (including 300 cell phone-only respondents), and it has an overall margin of error of plus-minus 3.1 percentage points.

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