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President Obama is expected to address health care reform in State of the Union address

Published: Monday, Jan. 24 2011 11:57 a.m. MST

President Barack Obama speaks in 2009 during a White House news conference on health care reform.

Ron Edmonds, Associated Press

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When President Obama gives his State of the Union address Tuesday, it's widely predicted he's going to talk about the economy, the twin wars overseas in Afghanistan and Iraq and the conflict at home — over health care reform.

The Hill's health care blogger, Jason Millman, speculates, based in part on a sit-down interview with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, that Obama was previewing his health care message this week when he said he is "willing and eager" to work with Republicans and Democrats alike to "improve" the reform law.

"But we can't go backward," Obama said. "Americans deserve the freedom and security of knowing that insurance companies can't deny, cap or drop their coverage when they need it the most, while taking meaningful steps to curb runaway health care costs."

AOL Health offers a similar take on what Americans can expect to hear during the annual January speech.

A couple of recent polls leading into the successful effort by House Republicans (with three Democrat crossovers) to repeal the Affordable Care Act — it's believed it will go nowhere in the Senate, where the Democrats have a majority — show that strong opposition to the health care reform law has dwindled somewhat among voters. Strong opposition is at a near-low of 30 percent, according to an Associated Press-GfK survey that has been done periodically since September 2009.

About one in four of those polled would like to see the law eliminated completely. Even among Republicans, support for repeal of the entire bill has fallen from 61 percent after the elections to 49 percent now.

Also, 43 percent say they want the law changed so it does more to re-engineer the health care system. But even fewer — less than one in five — say it should be left as it is. A Daily Finance recap says Americans want some tweaks.

Similarly, Greg Sargent of the Washington Post notes in his blog that new numbers from this week's Washington Post/ABC News poll bear this out yet again. And there are "nuances," he says, that are not captured by simple yes/no questions.

"The pollsters first asked people whether they support the law, and found that 45 percent back it, while 50 percent oppose it and 5 percent have no opinion. That latter 55 percent were then offered a range of options as to what they would prefer be done," he writes.

Here's the breakdown of what that yields:

Repeal all of it: 18 percent

Repeal parts of it: 19 percent

Wait and see: 17 percent

Less than one in five support full repeal.

Between them, the two surveys find that similar numbers want health care reform gone entirely and want it left exactly as it is.

AOL Health is taking a poll to see what readers think. You can access it here. They're also going to ask reader-submitted questions of Sebelius at the White House Thursday, Jan. 27.

Across the board, groups are divided on the issue, so the coming year promises more debate.

One thing that often seems to come up is discussion of Congress living by the same laws as it makes others live by. An article by Bill Straub in the Evansville Courier-Press does a nice job of summarizing what health benefits really can look like if you happen to be a member of Congress. It seems both sides have painted a picture that's slightly off.

And finally, on the lighter side, Talking Points Memo's Eric Kleefeld wants to know who is dating whom now that Republicans and Democrats have decided they'll mingle during the State of the Union address, in an attempt to be more civil in political discourse.

e-mail: lois@desnews.com

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