Americans are more likely to say the 2010 healthcare law upheld by the Supreme Court last week will hurt the national economy (46%) rather than help it (37%), while 18% say they don't know or that it will have no effect.
Healthcare spending accounts for between one-sixth and one-fifth of the U.S. gross domestic product. Thus, the overhaul of the U.S. healthcare system that the Affordable Care Act provides will certainly have an effect not just on the U.S. healthcare system, but on the U.S. economy more broadly.
Not even economists who study this for a living can estimate the ACA's precise impact on the U.S. economy over the years ahead, given that the bill is huge and multifaceted, and carries with it many assumptions about cost savings and how the healthcare system will react to its provisions.
Additionally, while some of the law's provisions have gone into effect, the majority of them have yet to be implemented, providing no real-world empirical evidence on its full economic impact.
Average Americans are certainly in no better position than economists to know exactly how the legislation will affect the economy, but their assumptions and perceptions have political repercussions nevertheless.
And at this point, Americans' views on the economic impact of the ACA are more negative than positive.
Views of the economic impact of the ACA are, as is true with everything else about the legislation, bound up with politics.
Republicans, who generally oppose the ACA, overwhelmingly think it will hurt the economy, while Democrats, who generally favor it, think it will help. Independents tilt toward the "hurt" rather than the "help" position.
All in all, do you think the 2010 healthcare law upheld by the Supreme Court last week will help or hurt the national economy? By party ID, July 2012
Democrats are a little less likely to say the ACA will help the economy than Republicans are to say it will hurt it.
The fact that independents are more likely to say it will hurt than help the economy -- by a 14-percentage-point margin -- is important in the context of the current presidential election.
Proponents of the ACA argue that it has many benefits, including in particular decreasing the number of Americans who don't have health insurance.
Opponents argue against it partly on philosophical grounds, decrying the ACA's reliance on government to control this personal aspect of Americans' lives.
The practical impact of the law on the healthcare system and the economy will not be fully known until it has been place and medical providers and consumers react to the changes.
But with the economy continuing to top the list of Americans' perceived most important problems facing the country, the impact of the ACA on the national economy is a major consideration.
The current data show that Americans are as divided on the question of the ACA's economic impact as they are on the bill itself, heavily along political lines.
But Americans' overall tilt toward the view that the ACA will hurt the economy may be a liability for President Obama and the ACA's proponents.
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