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As Obamacare Gears Up for Implementation, Enthusiasm for it Falls

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the individual mandate and President Obama’s re-election removed all doubt about whether Obamacare would become the law of the land.

But in 2012, even as the historic decision was handed down by the highest court and even as a majority of the electorate decided to give the president four more years, enthusiasm toward Obamacare was abating.

In fact Deloitte Center for Health Solutions’ 2012 survey of consumers found that between 2011 and 2012, those that felt that Obama’s signature legislative accomplishment was a “good start” ended up losing ground to the undecideds. In 2011, 49 percent described the Affordable Care Act in those terms, while in 2012 that number had fallen to 38 percent. Meanwhile those who were in the undecided category went from 21 percent to 34 percent.

Perhaps it is not surprising. The pitched battles on both sides were bound to have an effect especially regarding something that has still so many unknowns.

But these attitudes are not set in stone and other numbers in the survey point to real opportunities for Obamacare to win hearts and minds.

For instance, 57 percent of consumers want to be able to customize their health plans rather than depend on pre-defined options – as is the case with most employer-sponsored health insurance.

In this context, how state health insurance exchanges develop and begin operating in 2014 may have a lasting impact on how people view Obamacare. It is conceivable that if these exchanges work to introduce some healthy competition into the insurance marketplace, people may choose to buy their insurance on their own in lieu of employer-based insurance.

This will take some time of course – major insurance companies like UnitedHealth Group have already indicated that at least initially they will not offer products in more than a handful of state-run exchanges.

Still, there will be some opportunity to turn consumer sentiment at least away from the undecided category.

While enrollment in these state-run exchanges begin in the fall, we probably have to wait until Deloitte’s 2014 survey to get a better sense of whether the tide has shifted in favor of Obamacare.

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