Poll: Four in 10 believe in Obama healthcare law ‘death panels’

About four in 10 U.S. adults believe that President Obama's healthcare reform law will create "death panels" to decide patients' fitness for care, according to a new Associated Press-GfK survey

Support for the widely challenged claim has remained steady since 2010, when 39 percent believed "death panels" would result from the healthcare law. Today, 41 percent say the same is true.

Overall, most people believe the law will go into effect in spite of Republican pledges to repeal it. About seven in 10 adults said the law will be implemented with some changes, while 11 percent believe it will be implemented as passed. 

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Only 12 percent say the law will be repealed — an article of faith for Republicans and the GOP presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, who says repeal would be his first move once elected.

Wednesday's poll revealed a growing sense that the healthcare law will persist in some form, but almost no change in division over the law's merits.

Thirty-two percent of adults now support the law, while 36 percent oppose it, according to the poll. The split was 30 percent in favor, 40 against in the months after healthcare reform passed in 2010.

The poll also highlighted confusion about many of the law's provisions, as just 14 percent of adults identified the law's specifics correctly and with confidence.

This confusion could explain the persistence of Sarah Palin's "death panels" claim. The former Alaska governor coined the phrase in 2009 to refer to proposed provisions of the Affordable Care Act that encouraged end-of-life planning.

"The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama's 'death panel' so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment ... whether they are worthy of healthcare," Palin wrote during debate on the bill.

Those provisions were eventually scrapped after a public outcry. But the phrase rose again when Palin used it ahead of the Supreme Court's decision to uphold the law.

In a Facebook post, she referred to the healthcare law's Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) as a "panel of faceless bureaucrats who have the power to make life and death decisions about healthcare funding."

The IPAB, widely opposed by Republicans, is a group of healthcare experts tasked with cutting Medicare payments to doctors if the program's spending grows too quickly.

The board's "purpose all along has been to 'keep costs down' by actually denying care via price controls and typically inefficient bureaucracy," Palin wrote in June.

The AP survey was conducted Aug. 3-13 and has a margin of error of 3.4 percent.

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