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With high court on verge of ruling, poll cites 1/3 support for health law

Just a third of Americans back President Obama's health care overhaul on which the Supreme Court is about to pass judgment, a new poll finds. But there is overwhelming support among both supporters and opponents for Congress and the president to begin work on a new bill if the high court strikes down the 2-year-old law.

The overall level of support is relatively unchanged in recent months, with 47 percent opposing the law. But an Associated Press-GfK poll shows that only 21 percent of independents approve of the law, a new low in AP-GfK polling.

The Supreme Court is expected to rule on the 2010 law in the next week or so. Most of the law's major changes aimed at extending health insurance to more than 30 million Americans who now lack coverage have yet to take effect, including the requirement that most people have health insurance or pay a penalty. The insurance mandate has been among the least popular aspects of the law. Provisions that have gone into effect include extended coverage for young adults on their parents' insurance and relief for senior citizens with high prescription drug costs.

But whatever people think of the law, they don't want a Supreme Court ruling against it to be the last word on health care reform. More than three-fourths of Americans want their political leaders to undertake a new effort, rather than leave the health care system alone if the court rules against the law, according to the poll.

Large majorities of both opponents and backers of the law share the view that Congress and the president should start anew. The lowest level of support for the new law comes from people who identify themselves as strong supporters of the tea party. Even in that group, though, nearly 60 percent favor work on a new bill.

Gary Hess, a Republican from Discovery Bay, Calif., wants the high court to throw out the entire law.

But Hess, 77, said he favors the provision requiring insurance companies to cover people regardless of their medical condition.

Garrett Chase, 51, said he hopes the court leaves the law in place but agreed with Hess that the politicians should get back to work if it is struck down. "I live in the ghetto, and I see people dying every day," said Chase, an unemployed car salesman from Baltimore.

The Associated Press-GfK Poll was conducted last Thursday through Monday by GfK Roper Public Affairs and Corporate Communications. It involved land line and cellphone interviews with 1,007 adults nationwide and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

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